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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 July, 2003, 22:58 GMT 23:58 UK
Pinochet generals admit exhumations
Eight retired army generals in Chile have acknowledged that secret graves of people killed by the military regime were later dug up to dispose of the bodies.

A woman holds pictures of the
More than 3,000 people were killed or disappeared under Pinochet

The generals, including members of Augusto Pinochet's military junta in power from 1973 to 1990, condemned the illegal exhumations, saying they were incompatible with the conduct of military officers.

They apologised to the Chilean people and said human rights violations must never be repeated.

More than 3,000 people were killed or disappeared during General Pinochet's brutal crackdown on opponents and hundreds of bodies have never been found.

Last week, a judge in Chile initiated legal proceedings against five former members of the armed forces - not among the signatories of Thursday's declaration - on charges of illegally exhuming bodies.

The generals, who include former interior minister Cesar Benavides and former defence minister Herman Brady, said the crimes should be punished by the courts, but did not assume responsibility for ordering the procedure.

"Whatever the conditions were under which these exhumations took place, they constitute actions that do not fit with the proper conduct of a military officer," the generals said in a statement.

"We lament the pain these events have produced. Apart from understanding the origin of the military government and its work, we recognise the existence of problems in the area of human rights which must never be repeated," they said.

'Mass killings'

The bodies belonged to people who were killed inside the presidential palace during the 1973 coup.

They were exhumed in December 1978 and thrown into the sea from helicopters.

Human rights groups believe the corpses were removed to hide evidence of mass killings.

The centre-left government that has ruled Chile since 1990 is currently drafting a proposal to resolve the Pinochet-era human rights legacy to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the 11 September 1973 coup.

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Chile drops Pinochet trial
01 Jul 02  |  Americas
Timeline: Chile
17 Jul 02  |  Americas
Country profile: Chile
18 Jul 02  |  Country profiles

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