New Human Rights Investigatons Shed Light on Allende’s 1973 Death

New Human Rights Investigatons Shed Light on Allende’s 1973 Death

By R. Renee Yaworsky
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

Allendes death was originally ruled a suicide.  (Photo courtesy of BBC)
Allende's death was originally ruled a suicide. (Photo courtesy of BBC)

SANTIAGO, Chile—The first official investigation into former President Salvador Allende’s death has begun. A Chilean judge opened the investigation decades after Allende died in 1973 in the midst of a military coup led by the infamous General Augusto Pinochet. Pinochet’s subsequent dictatorship lasted 17 long years.

The judge’s order is just one of numerous investigations into 726 human rights violations that have yet to be prosecuted. Beatriz Pedrals, judicial prosecutor of the appeals court, explained that these inquiries into human rights crimes will seek “uniformity of criteria; in other words, what has not been investigated, the courts will investigate. This will finally establish what happened.” Judge Mario Carroza, in charge of Allende’s death inquiry, calls his obligation, “more than an important duty.”

Allende, a Socialist president, was democratically elected and then found dead at age 65 by armed forces who had captured the presidential palace. The military troops had attacked the palace for hours using firearms and bombs dropped by air force jets. In a radio broadcast he made as his palace was under attack, Allende predicted: “I will not resign. Placed in this historic juncture, I will pay with my life the loyalty of the people.”

At first, the results of an autopsy pointed to suicide. Allende apparently died from a bullet that was fired into his mouth from a short distance away. The autopsy report surmised that the gunshot wound “could have been made by himself.” But since 1973, many of the deceased president’s supporters have disagreed with the autopsy’s findings, suggesting instead that Allende was murdered by soldiers or snipers. Three years ago, an expert who examined the autopsy report concluded that Allende may have sustained injuries from two separate weapons.

According to Alicia Lira, president of the Association of Relatives of Politically Executed Persons, “Allende was murdered.” During Pinochet’s notorious military dictatorship, 3,000 people vanished or were murdered, and 50,000 were tortured or held captive. Pinochet, 91, died of a heart attack in 2006 while under investigation for a myriad of human rights abuses.

For more information, please see:

Radio Cadena Agramonte-Investigation of Allende Death in Chilean Political Spotlight-29 January 2011

NY Times-Chilean Judge Orders Investigation Into Allende’s Death-27 January 2011

BBC-Inquiry into 1973 death of Chile’s Salvador Allende-27 January 2011

Sonawane’s Murder: Hundreds of Thousands Protest In India

David L. Chaplin II
Impunity Watch; Asia

MUMBAI, India – Thousands of government workers in India have continued to protest against the brutal killing of an official in the western state of Maharashtra. Yashwant Sonawane was burnt to death while investigating a fuel racket.

Mr. Sonawane had apparently tried to prevent a criminal gang from stealing fuel on the Nashik-Manmad highway some 200km (124 miles) from Mumbai, when he was attacked and burnt alive after being doused by kerosene.

Image courtesy of the Times of India
Image courtesy of the Times of India

The killing has drawn people’s attention to the issue of corruption, which has been a major concern in the country in recent months after a series of scams, says the BBC’s Sanjoy Majumder in Delhi.

Nine people have been arrested in connection with Tuesday’s murder which has shocked people across India.

The government has blamed the so-called fuel mafia – criminals who steal petrol and mix it with kerosene before selling it, for the murder.

State police have turned their attention toward an oil adulteration mafia within Maharashtra today raiding 200 places and arresting around 180 people after an official was burnt alive while the Centre unveiled steps to reduce scope for diversion of subsidized kerosene. Additional Director General (Law & Order) K.P. Raghuvanshi said in Mumbai.

Hundreds of thousands of government officials are refusing to work in protest at the killing. They held a meeting in the state capital, Mumbai (Bombay), to mourn Mr. Sonawane and demanded that they be given adequate protection while carrying out their duties.

“We will attend office but not work,” GD Kulthe, secretary of the Maharashtra Gazetted Officers Mahasangh, told the BBC. “We are going to present a memorandum demanding strict action against all involved and better protection for government officers.”

The new Petroleum Minister S Jaipal Reddy unveiled steps including re-introduction of a chemical marker in kerosene in six months to eliminate the scope for adulteration of diesel using this subsidized fuel.  He also suggested that states use GPS-based vehicular tracking system for trucks transporting petrol and diesel to track the movement, any route deviations being taken or long stoppages.

Maharashtra Home Minister R.R. Patil said the ‘might’ of the oil mafia is increasing day by day.

“Those who are involved will not be spared and will be given the highest punishment,” he said in Mumbai.

“We have not come across any politician’s name in our investigation. Allegations about NCP leaders being involved have not come to me. If I am given proof, I will take stern action,” Patil said.

Ravindra Dhongade, president of the Maharashtra Gazetted Officers Mahasangh, said, “We have not announced the protest as a strike but we are shunning work to register our protest against this gruesome act which has shaken the government employees.”

The government servants have demanded better protection, a comprehensive probe and strictest possible punishment for Sonawane’s killers.

“Such people should be hanged till death,” said a distraught Maharashtra Government employee. Some others went as far as saying that the killers should also be burnt alive because death sentence would not be enough for the people who have committed such a heinous crime.

More raids are expected in the days to come and the challenge is to maintain the momentum triggered by this mass protest.

Fore more information, please see:

BBC – Indian official Sonawane’s murder prompts mass protest – 27 January 2011

Deccan Chronice – Crackdown against ‘mighty’ oil mafia; 180 held – 27 January 2011

IBN Live – Govt employees protest Sonawane’s murder – 27 January 2011

Ugandan Gay Rights Activist Murdered

By Daniel M. Austin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

Photo of Mr. David Kote. (Photo Courtesy of NY Daily News).
Photo of Mr. David Kato. (Photo Courtesy of NY Daily News).

KAMPALA, Uganda – On Wednesday, January 26, a prominent gay rights activist was found murdered in his home on the outskirts of Kampala.  The activist, Mr. David Kato was thrown into the international spotlight when Rolling Stone, a Ugandan newspaper, identified him as a homosexual by publishing his name and picture. Above the picture was the caption “Hang Them”. The newspaper article as well as Mr. Kato’s murder has drawn widespread condemnation along with calls for a thorough investigation.  Statements condemning the murder have come from officials in the United States as well as human rights group like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Ugandan security forces have already arrested one suspect and continue to look for additional perpetrators. Investigators believe that the killing took place around noon on January 26, when an intruder entered Mr. Kato’s residence and struck him in the head with a hammer. In Uganda, being killed by an iron instrument like a hammer or tire iron is called “iron-bar killings”. The police have speculated that Mr. Kato’s roommate could have committed this crime however they are unable to locate him. Additionally, the police have noted this crime could be tied in with a series of murders that have taken place in Mr. Kato’s neighborhood.

After the newspaper article was published, Mr. Kato began to receive death threats. Police officials in Kampala have speculated that the murder is related to a theft or burglary and not related to the publication of the article.

In response to the publishing of his picture, Mr. Kato sued the newspaper and had recently won a court battle. The victory provided Mr. Kato with an injunction that prevented the Rolling Stone newspaper from publishing the names and photographs of other prominent homosexuals in Uganda.  It was exactly three weeks after the court ruled in Mr. Kato’s favor that he was found bludgeoned to death.

Homosexual acts are forbidden in Uganda. If a citizen is charged with a homosexual act, the punishment is a prison term up to 14 years. A member of the Ugandan Parliament had recently proposed a law that would make the penalties for committing homosexual acts even more severe. In some cases, the punishment would be death.

For more information:

AFP — Uganda gay rights activist murdered: lawyer – 27 January 2011

BBC – Uganda gay rights activist David Kato killed – 27 January 2011

Bloomberg — Ugandan Gay-Rights Activist Kato Beaten to Death by Unknown Attackers – 27 January 2011

Daily Monitor– Police mounts hunt for killers of Ugandan gay rights activist – 27 January 2011

Indian Express — Ugandan gay rights activist killed — 27 January 2011


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November 9, 2010. Impunity Watch Law Journal and the International Law Society hosted Nectali Rodenzo, a lawyer and Co-Coordinator of the National Front of Lawyers in Resistance to the Coup in Honduras. Rodenzo shared his experiences of the 2009 Honduran military coup, its context and aftermath, and how it relates to the human rights situation on the ground in Honduras today.

Bloody Egyptian protests continue despite massive police presence

By Polly Johnson
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

Protesters clash with riot policemen in Cairo (Photo Courtesy of MSNBC).
Protesters clash with riot policemen in Cairo (Photo Courtesy of MSNBC).

CAIRO, Egypt – Protestors were beat with fists and sticks, sprayed with tear gas, killed by police and burned to death, amidst unprecedented anti-government demonstrations in Cairo.

Activists took to the streets yesterday, demanding an end to President Hosni Mubarak’s nearly thirty-year rule and a solution to such issues as poverty, rising prices and high unemployment.

Despite the massive police presence and response, powerful security forces, and international calls to avoid violence, more than two thousand demonstrators continued to march on a major downtown boulevard along the Nile on Wednesday night, marking the second day of protests.

Inspired by the uprising in Tunisia, chanters shouted, “Mubarek, Saudi Arabia awaits you. Out! Out! Revolution until victory,” and “Down with Hosni Mubarek, down with the tyrant. We don’t want you!”

On Tuesday, at least four people died and one hundred security personnel were injured. In anticipation of continued riots on Wednesday, thousands of policemen in riot gear gathered in major areas such as intersections and squares, outside the state television building and at Mubarek’s National Democratic Party headquarters. The largest protest took place in Tahrir Square.

The Interior Ministry urged “citizens to renounce attempts to bid and trade their problems and not lose sight of the consequences of provocation for those who attempt to try to open the door to a state of chaos or portray the situation in the country this way.”

The size and strength of the protest was in part fueled by activists’ use of social networking sites. A Facebook group listed places around Cairo where demonstrations would take place and posted, “All of Egypt must move, at one time.” By Tuesday night, Twitter had shut down, and Facebook was partially blocked by Wednesday afternoon.

The demonstrations come in a presidential election year. Mubarek, who is eighty-two years old, has not said whether he intends to run for another six-year term. Some think that his son, Gamal, will succeed him, a thought that both father and son deny.

The United States has taken a careful stance on the situation, as Egypt is a strong ally. Both White House spokesman Robert Gibbs and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton emphasized that all parties should refrain from violence. Clinton called on authorities not to block social media sites.

Clinton added that Washington believed that the Egyptian government was “stable” and “looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people.”

For more information, please see:

BBC – Egypt protests: Police disperse Cairo crowds – 26 January 2011

CNN – Protesters in Egypt greeted by a police crackdown – 26 January 2011

Guardian – Egypt protests are breaking new ground – 25 January 2011

NPR – Egypt says it will smash further political protests – 26 January 2011

Reuters – Egypt’s protests deepen uncertainty over leadership – 26 January 2011