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Pinochet death prompts mix of protests, celebration and praise in Chile

[JURIST] Chileans reacted to the death [JURIST report] of former dictator General Augusto Pinochet [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] in divergent ways Sunday, with some protesting that he died without ever facing trial for human rights violations committed during his regime, others celebrating the news of his death with champagne, and still others some mourning and praising Pinochet for saving the country from communism. Police turned tear gas and water cannons on several protests as demonstrators set fire barricades to block traffic and threw rocks. Chilean Deputy Interior Minister Felipe Harboe [official profile] urged peace in the country, citing the injuries of 23 police officers and several arrests of demonstrators. AP has more.

International human rights groups meanwhile denounced the fact that Pinochet was never tried for nearly 3,200 killings of political prisoners during his 1973-90 rule. Amnesty International [advocacy website] released a statement [text] saying "Pinochet's death should be a wake-up call for the authorities in Chile and for governments everywhere, reminding them of the importance of speedy justice for human rights crimes, something Pinochet himself has now escaped." José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director of Human Rights Watch [advocacy website], nonetheless expressed optimism [press release] that the London arrest [BBC report] of Pinochet in 1998 for rights violations was "the start of an effort to bring the world’s most powerful abusers to justice." AP has more.

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