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Pinochet dead at 91 without ever facing trial

[JURIST] top story Wire services are reporting that former Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] has died, according to an announcement from a military hospital [hospital website] in Santiago. Pinochet, 91, suffered a major heart attack [JURIST report] last Sunday; he was stabilized after emergency surgery but later was moved back into intensive care. Reuters has more.

In recent years Chilean authorities have made multiple efforts to bring the ex-dictator to justice for dozens of human rights violations he is accused of committing during his military rule from 1973 to 1990. Pinochet suffered from mild dementia, strokes, arthritis and other ailments that made his fitness to stand trial questionable. He enjoyed general immunity from prosecution under the 1980 Chilean Constitution, but was incrementally stripped of that immunity [BBC report] in light of charges brought against him. Two weeks ago, a judge ordered he be placed under house arrest [JURIST report] in connection with the executions of two of former President Salvador Allende's bodyguards during the so-called Caravan of Death [BBC backgrounder] that followed the 1973 coup in which Pinochet seized power; the house arrest order was lifted [JURIST report] earlier this week for his recuperation. Last month, on the occasion of his birthday, Pinochet publicly assumed full political responsibility [JURIST report] for the actions of his former regime.

Ironically, Pinochet's death falls on International Human Rights Day [UN factsheet], marking the anniversary of the UN General Assembly's adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.

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