US REPRESENTATIVES SEND LETTER TO CLINTON
31 members of the U.S. House of Representatives have sent a letter to President Clinton requesting full U.S. cooperation with the Spanish case against former Chilean General Augusto Pinochet, a thorough investigation into the car-bomb assassination of Orlando Letelier and American citizen Ronni Karpen Moffitt, and the release of all U.S. documents pertaining to human rights abuses in Chile.
February 24, 2000
Dear President Clinton,
We would like to take this opportunity to commend your Administration's recent activity concerning the ongoing investigation into former Chilean General Augusto Pinochet's role in the 1976 car bombing of Orlando Letelier and Ronni Moffitt in Washington D.C. We also appreciate your efforts to release documents pertaining to human rights abuses in Chile.
While we applaud these ongoing efforts, we would like to raise a number of concerns. In particular, we wish to urge the following:
· your full cooperation with the
Spanish case against Gen. Pinochet;
· your pledge of a thorough U.S. investigation of Gen. Pinochet for crimes committed in the United States and against Americans who were living in Chile, and;
· your assurance that federal agencies will be held accountable for complying with your directive to declassify and release documents pertaining to Pinochet and political violence in Chile and that the declassification process will continue until it has been completed, even if that means planning additional releases of materials.
Full Cooperation with the Spanish Case Against Pinochet
We realize that Pinochet may eventually be returned to Chile based on health concerns; this release is being challenged in the British Courts, however, by Belgium and six human rights groups and has been contested by members of the U.S Congress, parliamentarians and citizens around the world. Until a final decision is announced to end extradition proceedings against Pinochet, a Spanish trial remains a very real possibility.
Regrettably, the United States has cooperated only in the most cursory manner with the Spanish government's request under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty to provide documents and testimony to support the ongoing Spanish case against Pinochet. Only previously declassified materials have been provided to the Spanish. It is imperative that presidential discretion be used to release documents and information which remains classified or otherwise controlled as a result of ongoing criminal investigations. Aside from this cooperation the Administration has remained conspicuously silent about this historic case.
At the United Nations in 1998, you affirmed that the fight against terrorism would be at the top of the U.S. agenda. Expressing support for Spain's right to try Pinochet is certainly in keeping with that goal. US. officials have also reportedly encouraged friendly governments to arrest and prosecute Iraqi officials who travel abroad under international treaties relating to crimes against humanity. Silence on the Pinochet case in light of these efforts is, in our view, inconsistent. As you know, British courts have repeatedly upheld Spain's right to extradite Pinochet for crimes of torture and conspiracy to torture under the provisions of the UN Convention on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
Although the Chilean government claims jurisdiction over the Pinochet case, they have not requested his extradition from Britain - an obvious move if they are serious about trying him in Chile. Furthermore, U.S. concerns about the case's negative effects on Chile's democratic transition have proven unfounded. In fact, Pinochet's arrest has helped consolidate democracy in Chile and has led to progress towards holding those responsible for atrocities during Pinochet's regime accountable for their crimes. We believe it is in the United States' interest to assist in the case against Pinochet. Therefore, we ask you to ensure the release of significant information to the Spanish investigation including, if necessary, still classified information which the Spanish prosecutors can request be declassified for use in the trials in Spain.
Secondly, your Administration should not remain neutral about Spain's right to hold Pinochet accountable for his crimes or to allow him the opportunity to prove his innocence. We urge you to fully uphold the U.S. legal obligation to cooperate with the Spanish investigation, and also to publicly endorse the importance of this case in advancing international law. If the U.K. ends extradition proceedings against the General on humanitarian grounds, we urge you to support a Chilean trial of Pinochet and to cooperate fully with any Chilean investigation. Under Chilean law, only mental derangement is grounds for deeming a defendant unfit for trial. Chilean Judge Juan Guzman, who oversees nearly 60 cases against Pinochet, has recently stated that conversations with Pinochet's lawyers leave him convinced that Pinochet is in perfectly good mental health, although he has agreed to request another medical exam before pursuing a trial.
Support for a Thorough U.S. Investigation
We applaud the Justice Department's ongoing investigation into Pinochet's role in the 1976 murders of Chilean Orlando Letelier and U.S. citizen Ronni Karpen Moffitt in Washington D.C. Several people involved in the previous U.S. investigation into this case, including two FBI agents and an Assistant U.S. Attorney, have stated publicly that it is "inconceivable" that the assassination could have occurred without Pinochet's authorization. Furthermore, Chilean General Manuel Contreras, who is currently serving a prison term in Chile for the murders, has stated clearly that he took his orders exclusively from Pinochet.
Unfortunately, Chilean officials are making it difficult for the Justice Department to obtain that evidence. Despite previous public statements by the Chileans to cooperate with the U.S. government, there has been no agreement between the Chilean government and the U.S. government to allow U.S. investigators to conduct field interviews with prospective Chilean witnesses. Letters rogatory and other formal procedures are necessary to compel the cooperation of certain witnesses but should not be necessary in the espoused atmosphere of cooperation between Chile and the United States.
Last September, Foreign Minister Juan Gabriel Valdes predicted that a U.S. case would not be riddled with the controversy over jurisdiction that has plagued the Spanish case because the murders were committed on U.S. soil and involved the death of a U.S. citizen. Despite these encouraging statements, the Chilean government has yet to allow Justice Department officials into the country to take testimony and gather evidence. Without this access, the investigation will be seriously hindered. We urge you to ensure that the Justice Department investigation is conducted in a timely and thorough manner and is allowed to continue if Pinochet is returned to Chile on humanitarian grounds.
Even if Pinochet is never brought to trial in the U.S., it is crucial to establish a public record of his responsibility for this crime and work towards an indictment. We believe that with presidential support the very capable U.S. ambassador to Chile, John O'Leary, can achieve an agreement to allow voluntary interviews. In addition, we request that you appoint a presidential envoy to engage the Chilean government and the various other governments that are investigating cases involving victims of Operation Condor, the six-country co-operative effort that led to international assassination, torture and disappearances.
The United States successfully fought for justice against Gen. Contreras. We expect similar action with regard to Pinochet.
Support for U.S. Document Release
The first two releases last year of U.S. documents pertaining to human rights abuses in Chile have yielded a great deal of important information. Nevertheless, we believe that there are many significant documents that have not been released. Many of these documents would be useful to the Spanish case against Pinochet, the ongoing U.S. investigation, and other pending cases against Pinochet and Chilean military officials. They are also meaningful for the families of Pinochet's victims who seek the truth about what happened to their missing loved ones.
We request that you ensure that all agencies involved fully comply with your request for declassification and the spirit of your recent statement that U.S. citizens "deserve to know what happened back then and why." We ask that you instruct the agencies and each investigative organization to release the maximum amount of information, including documents identified in the course of investigative activity, as soon as the release of the information will not imperil active prosecutions. When the next installment of documents is released in June 2000, we hope to see a much larger portion of the story uncovered. Moreover, we request that you indicate publicly that it is the intention of the U.S. government to release the maximum amount of information as soon as it is no longer needed for ongoing prosecutions and that you allow the release process to continue indefinitely until everything in question is released. We also urge that you instruct all U.S. agencies to complete the processing of information and materials relating to Operation Condor and to the Letelier-Moffitt assassination first in order to support ongoing investigative activities in the U.S., Spain, Argentina, Italy, France, Belgium, Switzerland and Chile.
A Chilean government report indicates that 3,197 people were killed or disappeared during Pinochet's rule in Chile; this number does not reflect the thousands who survived torture, arbitrary arrest or exile. U.S. citizens Charles Horman, Frank Teruggi, and Ronni Moffitt lost their lives at the hands of Pinochet's bloody dictatorship. We believe that the truth must be told and that Pinochet be held accountable for his role in these terrible crimes.
Thank you again for your efforts in this matter. With the help of your Administration, Chileans and Americans both can move closer toward bringing an end to this devastating chapter of history.
George Miller (D-CA), Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Sam Gejdenson (D-CT), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Neil Abercrombie (D-HI), Cynthia McKinney (D-GA), James McGovern (D-MA), John Conyers (D-MI), Barney Frank (D-MA), Pete Stark (D-CA), Henry Waxman (D-CA), Lane Evans (D-IL), Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Maxine Waters (D-CA), Tim Roemer (D- IN), Howard Berman (D-CA), John Olver (D-MA), Melvin Watt (D- NC), Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Patsy Mink (D-HI), Marcy Kaptur (D- OH), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), John Tierney (D-MA), Janice Schakowsky (D-IL), Xavier Becerra (D-CA), Martin Sabo (D-MN), and Bob Filner (D-CA).
Cc: Hon. Albert Gore, Vice President
Hon. Janet Reno, Attorney General
Hon. Madeleine Albright, Secretary of State
Hon. Sandy Berger, National Security Advisor