The Supreme Court in Chile has ruled that the former dictator General Pinochet should have his immunity from prosecution removed.
A lawsuit was brought by relatives of alleged victims of the military regime Operation Condor.
The ruling clears the way for General Pinochet to be tried on charges of human rights abuses and crimes during his presidency.
The 88-year-old former president returned to Chile in March 2000, after UK Home Secretary Jack Straw said he was not well enough to stand trial.
Should the Supreme Court have lifted Pinochet's immunity? Will Pinochet face charges? Will this decision help Chile to come to terms with its past? Send us your views.
This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.
It's very funny to read comments written by people who even don't know where Chile is. Two thousand dead people is NOTHING if you think how many would have died without military intervention in 1973. Just look at Cuba, Colombia or Perú, places where terrorism or Marxist governments tolled 50,000 human 'innocent' lives each. Augusto Pinochet is innocent, and doesn't have to stand any kind of trial.
Hernán Vásquez Villanueva, Viña del Mar, Chile
Every dictator supported by the U.S. in the past fifty years has either been assassinated or overthrown. If you're a dictator, the message is clear: Don't go on the American payroll - they have a lousy retirement plan.
Chuck Kulig, Chicago, USA
This decision by the Chilean Supreme Court should have been taken long time ago. It is time this man was confronted with his crimes in a court of law, for pedagogic reasons and for Chile to come to terms with its past once and for all. Considering that his crimes are now perfectly documented, it should not take too long to accuse him. Democracies should not let these sort of criminals go about unpunished, no matter how long it takes to catch or prosecute them.
Alberto Miranda, Lisbon, Portugal
Pinochet should not only be tried but should be offered immunity from prosecution if he names the US supporters of his campaigns against the Chilean people These might include Kissinger and high level White house, Military and CIA managers. We should be able to try Kissinger and others for their role in promoting murder and mayhem in Chile and other countries.
Andrew Stancioff, Washington, DC, USA
Too little, too late. He would escape justice either due to his old age or die a natural death. But at least it is a symbolic victory for the people of Chile!
Srinivasan Toft, Humlebæk, Denmark
Sorry, but a lot of you seems to think about "thousands" of disappeared people. Please note that, according to the official Rettig Report, we are talking about 3,000 dead ones, with almost 900 being members of the armed forces killed by terrorist acts. It seems the biased information given during the last decades is still believed there.
Blas, Santiago, Chile
While I have no pity for him, I do have worries about the precedent of the stripping away of his legal immunity. No matter what he did, or what you think about heads of state having immunity for their acts while in office (he's not alone in this - many of them do), this immunity was legitimately granted and to retroactively strip it away sets a very dangerous precedent. If a government thinks it can change the law and then make this apply to the past, then they can do anything they like - make new crimes to fit whoever they want to persecute, decide what they want to do and then effectively rewrite the past to make it possible. A government that had this power has no limits on the evil it can perform.
I'm curious as to how Blair can, on the one hand justify invasion of Iraq on the pretext of removing a tyrant from his place of oppression, yet on the other hand do everything short of actually spiriting Pinochet away to a secret location to protect him from prosecution? Is there some formula that Blair, Straw, etc come up with to decide which murdering scumbags get invaded and which ones get to stay in 5 Star accommodations as fugitives from justice?
Ian, Brit in USA
" Justice delayed is justice denied".
Jim MacDonald, Brandon, MB, Canada
Definitely the right decision. He should now be tried and spend the rest of his life in prison, even if he only lives for ten or more years. He was a fascist tyrant who overthrew his country's elected president at the behest of his foreign (CIA) masters, and then murdered 3000 and "disappeared" thousands more during years of dictatorship, during which the country was run for the benefit of US interests.
Alex Wright, Liss nr Portsmouth, S England
As the most legitimate, democratic, and benevolent dictator in recent memory, Gen. Pinochet should not have to stand trial. Gen. Pinochet saved Chile from chaos after the Chilean Chamber of Deputies called for the Military overthrow of Allede's autocratic leaning government on August 23, 1973. He relinquished power after losing a plebiscite (he got 43% of the vote). Gen. Pinochet may have been tough on the opposition; he was justified using coercive tactics on MIR guerillas killing peasant farmers and creating rural terror. Because of his actions, Chile is the envy of South America and has the most stable political system in all of Latin America. He did this without creating a cult of personality or stealing (much) money from the public treasury. I hope in the future that all autocrats are as benevolent as Gen. Pinochet
Nathan, Dallas, Texas, USA
If Justice rules that General Pinochet should stand trial and the human right abuses investigated, so be it. Let the Justice Courts do their job and investigate any crime. However, the Pinochet case has become a 21st Century Inquisition. People that were prosecuted and tortured during the Pinochet years finally get a chance to get back at him. They don't want justice, they want crude revenge on the man that has become the symbol of their struggle. Not justice. If justice works, it should work both ways. Human rights is a universal principle, not to be taken over by political means.
My faith in justice has been restored.
Rima Mutreja, Washington, DC
Castro has been doing to Cuba for decades exactly what Pinochet did to Chile. The difference is that Castro started his reign of terror a full 14 years before Pinochet, and has continued for the last 15 years after Pinochet. I find it interesting that many of the same people who are so vehement in their condemnation of Pinochet are curiously silent and even sycophantic, when discussing other people who have taken power by force (when was the last contested Cuban election?)
Pete Comas, New York City
Justice is timeless. And General Pinochet should be put on trial for the crimes he committed decades ago. Otherwise the public will not know what is right/wrong and the families of the victims from his regime can never have peace in their minds.
Eileen, Coventry, UK, from Taiwan
Oh thank God. Finally justice can be served.
Jack, LA, US
Old and infirm Pinochet may be, but so were many who suffered under his dictatorship. He should be made to suffer the same pain as his victims. The wealth stolen during his dictatorship should be returned to the country, and all benefits/money that his family have enjoyed as a consequence of his dictatorship should also be returned. Hopefully, during his trial, Pinochet's 'friends' from the UK and US Governments will also be held accountable.
Damon, United Kingdom
A day late and dollar short. This man has led a long and full life. He should have been held to account many years ago. At 88 he will never see the inside of a cell thus proving that mass crime and abuse does pay!
Simon Porter, Pasadena, California
No one should be above the law. No one should be immune from prosecution. That Pinochet finally has to stand trial is a small ray of hope for justice, but there is still a long, long way to go !
Prem Manasvi, Thrissur, India
Yes it was right for him to lose his immunity. Too many dictators think they can do what they like and get away with it. This should send out a clear warning that this is no longer possible.
Great news! All those who suffered under the western/US backed Pinochet dictatorship, whether in Chile or as a result of the vast US coordinated mass terror campaign, 'Operation Condor',(in which Pinochet was hugely involved) throughout Latin America, the US and Europe, deserve justice. This is good for Chile, good for justice. Try him and Kissinger and let the World know the truth.
Patrick Black, York.UK
It's a bit late, but bringing him to justice might bring closure to a lot of families who have lost loved ones due to his idiotic way of thinking. People around the world should watch the trial process, if he is charged. Unfortunately, I happen to live next to a country whose president seems to think along similar lines. I just hope that there was a way where people like Pinochet would not gain control of a country. They are people without a conscience, they belong in jail.
John L Shewchuk, Edmonton, Canada
It is like digging a corpse out of a grave and taking this into a court. It will not help heal anything. It rather keeps on divisions and hatred. People are well advised to learn to forgive after good amount of time has passed of the wrong doings of a government.
Mikko Toivonen, Helsinki, Finland
There are millions of people in Venezuela and Cuba today who wish they had their own Pinochet. Throwing out the communists was right. Only the way he went about it was wrong.
About time an all. He has to face his crime a mistakes. If innocent, he goes free but if found guilty? Nobody is above the law. He is not different.
Iyabo Baker, Antwerpen, Belgium
If you don't support the prosecution of Pinochet for murdering thousands of innocent people, then how can you support the prosecution of bin Laden (if he's ever caught) for the same.
Alex Wright, Liss nr Portsmouth, S England
Absolutely the right decision, this man is accused of some of the most serious of crimes. Prosecuting Pinochet to the full extent of Chilean ant international law will hopefully send out the message to future dictators around the world that the global community is not prepared to see them escape the consequences of their actions when they are finally ejected from office.
Nick Fraser, Jordan
Chile socialists and other leftists will continue prosecuting gen. Pinochet long after his death. For their issue is not justice, but vengeance.
Meerkat, Alexandria, VA, USA
I was glad to hear that Pinochet lost his immunity. No one should be immune from prosecution. The sooner many so-called world leaders realize that they will be held responsible for their actions and those of their government perhaps the sooner we will have saner governments.
Gary Hand, Bangkok, Thailand
This is significant as it shows present and future dictators that the law will catch up with them at some point.
Martin Horseling, Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Pinochet is a criminal and whether you believe he saved Chile from Communism or was an oppressive dictator is irrelevant. Thousands disappeared and their relatives deserve justice.
Carl, Madrid, Spain
There can be no reconciliation without justice. Chile will always be divided while Pinochet and the others do not stand trial for their crimes. As for those urging for him to be left alone, if he had killed or tortured members of your families you would not say that. Let there be justice, the truth will set Chile free.
Victor Figueroa , London
The reason he was protected for so long is that no supposedly civilized nation, with vested interests in the continuing cooperation of any dictator, wants to send out the message that they will be hung out to dry.
Adam, Philly US (ex UK)
This ruling, in my view, has much more of a symbolic significance. True, the verdict came too late and too slow, and I sincerely doubt that Pinochet would be thrown into jail. But I believe that this is a small, but precious victory for those thousands who have suffered under him.
Tae, Seoul, South Korea,
Although it is too little, too late, Pinochet should be made to face what he did. This is good for Chile.
Tom Hunsberger, Canada and Mexico
After a fair and unbiased trial, with neutral international observers, if convicted, like those at Nurenburg, Gen. Pinochet should mount the gallows and endure a death with dignity; a death that was not granted to the thousands of those Chileans who, on his orders, were murdered in cold blood.
Edward B Ryder IVth,NY, USA
Wonderful news! Wish Straw had had the guts to do the same. I would have been proud to be British. There is nothing seriously wrong with Pinochet and he should stand trial - now.
Rosemary Cortes, Dorset, UK
Hypocrisy rules the world. Pinochet is certainly no saint; but what he did for Chile cannot go ignored or forgotten. There are more conspicuous "wrongdoers" who by far surpass him; yet they are "accepted" for their political colours.
Constance Hamilton, Santiago, Chile
Pinochet did more than just limit freedom of speech and establish a rule of oppression; he also made Chile in what is today the most enviable country in Latin America. Dictators can be quiet efficient in paving the way for prosperity.
Juan, Caracas, Venezuela.
I was a US Peace Corps volunteer in Chile from 1979 to 1981 and I do agree with the writer from Santiago Chile who said that half the country is divided as it seemed when I was there. Life sentence for the sick old man would be better for Chile and perhaps save some civil strife.
Phil, New Jersey, USA
I can't believe that people are really saying in this forum that it is not important to prosecute someone for killing and torturing thousands of people, or excusing these crimes because of their own objections to socialism. We have laws on this planet to protect innocent people, regardless of what party they support.
Andrew, London, UK
The process to indict Pinochet and the debate surrounding it is a waste of time. His assets in the US have not been frozen and this is clear testimony that he still enjoys US patronage. Knowing this, how many Chilean politicians will risk their own careers to see Pinochet brought to justice?
There were no reasons General Pinochet should be given immunity. His governing of Chile was no better than Saddam's with the same torture system except that he was backed by the US. If there is to be one justice for all, he should stand trial well or not.
Robert Tanguay, Québec, Canada
At last, of course he should be judged for all the atrocities he has committed. Why should he get away with them just because he is ill and not well enough to stand trial? Think of all the poor people who suffered all their life or had their lives taken from them.
Ailsa Lee, Brussels - Belgium
Immunity is a problem. If there is evidence against him for serious crimes he should go to trial, the charges should be heard, proven or disproven. If guilty he should be declared so and given the appropriate punishment for the crime. This way justice is served. Whether his sentence is commuted or not given his age or other considerations is another matter. The key principle is not revenge, it is that rulers that commit crimes will go to court and be declared guilty of those crimes and sentenced. This is an important principle. What happens to Pinochet is secondary.
Am, Encarnacion, Paraguay
Pinochet is a criminal because he forcefully overthrew a legitimate government elected by the Chilean people. He has to pay for his deeds no matter what. The crucial thing is that the forces behind him during the coup i.e. CIA and ITT should be revealed and condemned publicly.
Okan Ataer, Turkey
Yes Pinochet is a criminal. But, what about the criminals those brought him in power. Shouldn't they be standing next to Pinochet?
S. Siddiqui, Chicago, USA
His immunity has been removed and he faces charges of human rights abuses? Doubtless we'll soon see him playing the role of a feeble doddering old man.
Pete, Chicago, US
He is the last great hero in the fight against Marxism. This will only bring new divisions between Chileans, with one half pro and one half against Pinochet. We all should let him rest his last days, thinking how, in the end, was possible that a government with only 33% of support tried to destroy the republican life in Chile. And I am talking about Allende, the real one, and not the image adored by people who didn't live in Chile during the early 70's.
Blas, Santiago, Chile
National leaders, more than any other individuals, should be made directly accountable for their misdemeanours and not be allowed to legislate themselves immunity.
Bob Byrne, Port Elgin, Ont. Canada
His guilty as other dictators. but because he was help by the USA, he will get away with it, because it's only USA that decides who to be brought to justice
Sidi Kikenya, Denmark
Why should he be allowed to rest in peace? No matter how far and for how long you run, you will always reap what you sow.
Max Richards, Wales
I remember meeting an openly Pinochetist lawyer in Chile, back in 1999 who told me: "This guy helped the UK against Argentina and the USA against the commies, they won't and they can't hand him to those Spanish communist judges." He proved to be right then. Maybe this time the UK and the USA will not have to pay back the old fascist dictator and he might be really put on trial. This is overdue for the relatives and friends of Pinochet's victims.
Oscar Lima, Athens, Greece
Pinochet's trial is certainly long overdue. Perhaps now the victims of his terror machine will finally have some justice served.
James Slone, Kingston-Upon-Hull, Britain
He'll probably die in his luxury villa on a sandy beach, laughing at the World. I just hope his afterdeath won't be that sweet.
Better late than never. Who's next?
Lia, Athens, Greece
The only real chance for justice was lost when Pinochet was allowed to leave London. In Chile his supporters are less but very powerful. In the democratic Chile, the army is openly on the dictator's side. Today's justice attempt will not prosper.
Hernan Vasquez, Houston, USA
Incredible that one man can give orders to kill and torture thousand of people, to violate human rights, that one man can plunder a beautiful country like Chile, and that this same man can publicly brag about these actions as if Chilean people should be grateful for what he did. The basic question is not about the trial of this 'angel of death', who clearly deserves punishment regardless of age and health, but about Chile itself: will Chileans at last be given the opportunity to get some closure on this gruesome chapter in their national history?
Linn van Berlaer, Brussels, Belgium
National reconciliation needs an end to impunity, in the case of Chile as in so many other countries around the world. Pinochet's trial and conviction would set a strong precedent for other cases, both nationally and internationally.
Lucas D., Brussels, Belgium
Lies and impunity are the main threats to national unity. As a person from a nation who prefers "forgetting" its history instead of "dealing" with it, I can only praise the decision of Chileans. No nation can build any stable future before cleaning up its history.
Pinochet is a murderer many times over. He was supported by the US and lauded over here by Thatcher while his death squads tortured and murdered thousands of men, women and children. He should have been tried and executed years ago.
This notorious mass murderer only had his immunity lifted when embezzled dollars were found in his foreign bank accounts. Truly, as Machiavelli wrote centuries ago, men will sooner forget the death of their father than the loss of their patrimony.
Leszek Luc howski, Gliwice, Poland
There are people serving long prison sentences for cannabis offences, yet murderers like Pinochet have immunity. So what makes us think we're civilised? Usual story, you get the "justice" you can afford. The longer that Pinochet manages to delay prosecution, the shorter a possible life sentence is likely to be.
Gary Chiles, Wellington, New Zealand
He is a human being, just like everyone else has to face the consequences of his actions. This is a step towards finding justice in Chile, and an example for all the countries that suffer from the same, like Guatemala.
Claudia Samayoa, Guatemala City, Guatemala
As someone who lived in Chile for 2 years, and who is a firm believer of basic human rights for all, today's decision by the Supreme Court in Chile, to remove Pinochet's immunity from prosecution is a positive step towards justice. Until the perpetrators are legally forced to answer their crimes, Chileans who suffered both physically and mentally at the hands of Pinochet's secret police, will not be able to put their pasts to rest. Truth and reconciliation is what all victims deserve.
Eric, Washington DC, USA
Almost 15 years after the end of Mr. Pinochet's government, the country is still divided roughly in halves strongly for or against him. This trial will reach nowhere and it will certainly further postpone the reconciliation among Chileans.
Gonzalo Vásquez Villanueva, Santiago, Chile
What will this achieve? Although Pinochet must be prosecuted and brought to justice, this is long overdue. Its it better late than never?
Ewan, Aberdeen, Scotland
For the eyes of the world and for the people of Chile they had to lift the immunity. However it is too little too late. This entire process is taking too long, a predictable part of politics as usual. Where were the eyes of the world when this atrocity was taking place? The United States helped put Pinochet in power and will probably help him now to remain untouchable despite the circus. No justice will come for those he murdered.
Julie Sanders, Chicago, USA
There are no sweeter moments than when we see scoundrels have their cloaks unravelled thread by thread.
John Thomas, Toronto, Canada
The former ruler of Chile is an old man now. If he's charged his trial will last years and if he's convicted he'll probably never serve any time in prison. It probably makes the communists and socialists feel better and the lawyers salivate at the prospect of making loads of money, but, it really means nothing.
Sam, Ferndale, Michigan USA
Mr. Pinochet is too old for all these trials and legal procedures. Just let him rest in peace.
Valentin Rimdjonok, Ottawa, Canada
No president should have immunity!! Every president should make to responsible of decisions they take during his presidency. Pinochet is a criminal!
Jorge Sanz Garcia, Almazan Spain
I would not count my chickens just yet, for this process has been going back and forth for a couple of years. But, should the Fascist general really come to be tried and convicted, I hope the Chilean people do not stop there. There are many more people and institutions in Chile and abroad who participated avidly in the bloodshed.
In an ideal world both the murderous right wingers and their equally vicious left extremist counterparts should all be removed from society. They should all spend the rest of their lives together in jail, doing charity work of all sorts so as to repay if a minute fraction of their debt to civilized life in Chile. But, alas, this is only Chile, not heaven!
Francisco Sepulveda, Essex - UK
Pinochet saved Argentina from becoming another Cuba or Belarus. The whole push to prosecute him is politically driven. If human rights abuses were the sole criteria for such prosecutions, Castro would have been prosecuted years ago.
No doubt that Chile prospered economically under Pinochet's dictatorship. Today it is an economic power in Latin America. But at the cost of democracy and an unnecessary dictatorship. Now it is time for Pinochet to face the human rights abuses committed during his presidency. This is good news, not only because it tries to bring justice where none existed before, but because a message is being sent out, not just in Chile, but all over the world: dictators and former dictators will have to sooner or later face justice for crimes committed during their watch. What Chile must do now is seek and find justice, not vengeance, in the names of the innocent victims of the military regime, and for reconciliation amongst all citizens of Chile.
Robert Vieites, Miami, USA
The US supported Pinochet, Saddam and others around the World for years. For that reason we shouldn't look at this in the US from high horse. Closure and a sense that justice is alive and well are good things.
Dale Lanan, Longmont, Colorado USA
Yes, he has been a criminal, a traitor and (now we know) a thief. Nobody is above the law!
Julio Vidaurrazaga, Mayaguez PR USA
One small victory at long, long last for the forces of justice and democracy in Chile. I hope Pinochet will be given a symbolic trial to document every single one of his atrocities as a clear message to dictators everywhere.
Andy Millward, Broxbourne, UK
I don't see how anyone could think other than that this is a wonderful event. The level of repression carried out by Pinochet shocked, and continues to shock, the conscience of the world -- it's about time he were held accountable.
Paul Gowder, Washington D.C., USA
No one should be immune from prosecution especially when there are serious suspicions that the person in question may be related to the killing of hundreds of people and widespread human rights abuses, as clearly is the case of Pinochet. He is not above the law, the ruling simply states a simple fact of justice. I hope Pinochet will be tried fairly and that he will get what he deserves. He will never be able to give the dead back to their relatives but at least light will be shed on a dark period of Chile's history so that this beautiful country can move on.