[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Chile [official website] affirmed seven convictions and overturned one on Tuesday in cases involving murders committed by state agents during the 1973-90 regime of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. Former Air Force General Freddy Ruiz Bunger and six former members of the Joint Command, a special police force, received suspended sentences of three years and one day imprisonment for the 1976 murder of Communist Party official Carlos Humberto Contreras. Several of the men sentenced are currently serving sentences for other human rights abuses committed during the 1970s. The court based its decision on the Geneva Conventions [ICRC materials], finding that Chile was in a state of internal armed conflict when the murder occurred.
The court also reversed the conviction of former Army official Claudio Lecaros Carrasco for the murders of three individuals in 1973, determining that the general 15-year statute of limitations had expired. The court held that the limitation was applicable to Carrasco's case because no state of armed conflict existed in 1973 to justify the application of the Geneva Conventions. Human rights lawyer Boris Paredes claimed that the ruling is inconsistent with Chile's responsibility under international law to prosecute and punish those responsible for crimes against humanity, and he announced that a petition would be brought before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights [official website]. El Pais has more. El Mercurio has local coverage.