Justice catches up to Chile, Ecuador war criminals
A judge in Quito on Oct. 1 ordered the house arrest of three army and police officers in Ecuador's first trial involving alleged crimes against humanity. They are part of a group of 10 former senior officers accused of abducting and torturing three members of an illegal opposition group, the Eloy Alfaro Popular Armed Forces, in 1985. Activists converged on the capital for the opening day of the landmark trial. The events took place under the conservative government of late Leon Febres Cordero, who was elected to a four-year term in 1984. Judge Lucy Blacio turned down prosecutors' request to have one elderly army general detained, on the ground that he is seriously ill; however, he is barred from leaving the country. The three victims—Susana Cajas, Javier Jarrin and Luis Vaca—are to testify in the case next week. The charges were brought by a special Truth Commission created to address rights abuses. (Jurist, Oct. 2; BBC News, AFP via Milenio, Oct. 1)
Meanwhile in Chile, Gen. Odlanier Mena, former director of the National Intelligence Center (CNI) under the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, killed himself Sept. 28, days after President Sebastián Piñera announced that it would close the exclusive military prison where he was being held for human rights crimes. Under pressure from survivors, the government is to close Cordillera Detention Center and transfer the 10 former dictatorship figures being held there to a less privileged detention center. Mena, 87, shot himself at home, where he had been allowed to spend weekends since mid-2011, when he had completed half of a six-year term for the 1973 murder of three leftists as commander of an army regiment in Arica. The slayings were allegedly part of the "Caravan of Death"—a military operation believed to have claimed the lives of more than 100 opponents of the 1973 coup.
Mena, who was trained at the US Army's School of the Americas at Fort Benning in 1970, served as CNI director from 1977 to 1980. The Cordillera Detention Center in Santiago was established on the grounds of the army's telecommunications command center in 2004, when the Supreme Court overturned Chile's 1978 amnesty law for human rights cases.
Mena's attorney, Jorge Balmaceda, blamed the decision to close the Cordillera center for his client's death. "In the last letter he sent me he expressed concern for the eventual transfer, which would cause him serious moral, physical and psychological harm," Balmaceda said in a TV interview. (SOA Watch, Oct. 1; 24 Horas, Chile, Sept. 30; BBC News, NYT, Sept. 28; Al Jazeera, Sept. 27)
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