The Pinochet Amnesty Act is what would be called a "narrowly tailored" statute in the United States1. After the inaugural bloodbath of the Pinochet regime in the early-to-mid 1970s, the military junta headed by General Pinochet went about what it called "restoring law and order in the Republic. By "restoring law and order," Pinochet and his cohorts meant the gradual process of pacifying the population by acts of terrorism, including murder, disappearance, torture, and other means of averting the danger of another democratic experiment. This interesting version of "law and order" also included legislation to minimise the regime's exposure to criminal prosecution. According to the regime, this was necessary to ensure the "general tranquility," a concept that always becomes a compelling interest when it can be used to justify a get out of jail free card. Thus, in 1978, Pinochet and his junta drafted and promulgated the Amnesty Act, Executive Decree No. 2,191 of 18 April 1978.

This statute exemplifies the concept of "narrow tailoring." While Articles 1 and 2 provide blanket amnesty for all offences committed under the State of Siege imposed by the junta in 1973, the Decree provides ample exceptions to ensure that no broader amnesty would be granted than was absolutely necessary for the compelling state interest of covering their asses. One important exception is that of Article 1, which denies amnesty to persons [...] currently on trial or serving a sentence," i.e. those persons that junta itself decided to prosecute or punish.

In addition to denying amnesty to anyone the junta had decided to prosecute, Article 3 enumerates a catalogue of offences to which amnesty would not apply, such as narcotrafficking, robbery, bribery, rape, and other things that the members of the junta were less likely to commit themselves. This allowed Pinochet substantial flexibility to prosecute the occasional smallfry if he deemed it necessary to provide the illusion of the rule of law. Interestingly, Article 3 does not deny amnesty to persons guilty of murder, manslaughter, treason, or espionage.




1 Of course, in US legal usage, we speak of a statute being "narrowly tailored" (i.e. no more restrictive than is necessary) to serve a legitimate governmental interest.




EXECUTIVE DECREE NO. 2,191, 18 April 1978 (Amnesty Act)



In the light of: the provisions of the Executive Decrees Nos. 1 and 128 of 1973, and 527 of 1974, and

Whereas:

1. The general tranquility, peace, and order currently enjoyed throughout the country, such that the internal unrest has been overcome, have made possible an end to the State of Siege and cufrew throughout the National Territory;

2. It is an ethical imperative that all efforts necessary to strengthen the bonds that unite the Chilean nation, leaving behind hostilities that are now of no importance, and encouraging all initiatives that will consolidate the reunification of the Chilean people, be carried out;

3. An ironclad national unity is necessary, which will support the Nation's advance toward the new institutional framework that must govern the destiny of Chile.
The Governing Junta has decided to promulgate the following Executive Decree:
Article 1 All persons, who, whether acting as principals, accessories before the fact, or accessories after the fact, have participated in unlawful acts while the State of Siege was in force, from 11 September 1973 to 10 March 1978, shall be granted amnesty, unless and to the extent that such persons are not currently on trial or serving a sentence.

Article 2 Additionally, all persons shall be granted amnesty who, as of the effective date of this Executive Decree have been convicted by courts-martial, if such conviction was entered after 11 September 1973.

Article 3 The amnesty granted in art. 1 shall not apply to persons against whom a trial is pending or a conviction has been entered for patricide, infanticide, robbery by force or intimidation, manufacture or traffic in narcotics, abduction of minors, corruption of minors, arson and other crimes of violence; rape, incest, driving while under the influence of alcohol, embezzlement of funds or public property, fraud and bribery, as well as other crimes of deception, sexual abuse, offences within the contemplation of Executive Decree no. 280 of 1974 as amended; bribery and fraud of customs agents, and smuggling, as well as offences provided for in the Tax Code.

Article 4 Article 1 shall further be inapplicable to persons responsible, whether as principals, accessories before the fact, or accessories after the fact, for acts investigated in Docket No. 192-78 of the Santiago Court-Martial, Ad hoc division.

Article 5 Persons granted the amnesty provided for in this Executive Decree currently outside of the territory of the Republic, must submit to the procedures provided for in art. 3 of Executive Decree No. 81 of 1973 in order to return to Chile.
Registered at the Office of the Comptroller General of the Republic, to be published in the Official Gazette and inserted in the Official Compilation of the Office of the Comptroller General. AUGUSTO PINOCHET UGARTE, General of the Army, President of the Republic. JOSE T. MERINO CASTRO, Admiral, Commander-in-Chief of the Navy. GUSTAVO LEIGH GUZMAN, General of the Air Force, Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force. CESAR MENDOZA DURAN, General, Director General of the Military Police. Sergio Fernández Fernández, Ministry of the Interior; Mónica Madariaga Gutiérrez, Ministry of Justice.



DECRETO LEY 2.191, 18 de abril de 1978 (Ley de Amnistía)



Vistos: lo dispuesto en los decretos leyes Nos 1 y 128 de 1973, y 527 de 1974, y

Considerando:

1. La tranquilidad general, la paz y el orden de que disfruta actualmente todo el país, en términos tales, que la conmoción interna ha sido superada, haciendo posible poner fin al Estado de Sitio y al toque de queda en todo el territorio nacional;

2. El imperativo ético que ordena llevar a cabo todos los esfuerzos conducentes a fortalecer los vínculos que unen a la nación chilena, dejando atrás odiosidades hoy carentes de sentido, y fomentando todas las iniciativas que consoliden la reunificación de los chilenos;

3. La necesidad de una férrea unidad nacional que respalde el avance hacia la nueva institucionalidad que debe regir los destinos de Chile.
La Junta de Gobierno ha acordado dictar el siguiente decreto ley:
Artículo 1 Concédese amnistía a todas las personas que, en calidad de autores, cómplices o encubridores hayan incurrido en hechos delictuosos durante la vigencia de la situación de Estado de Sitio, comprendida entre el 11 de septiembre de 1973 y el 10 de marzo de 1978, siempre que no se encuentren actualmente sometidas a proceso o condenadas.

Artículo 2 Amnistíase, asimismo, a las personas que a la fecha de vigencia del presente decreto ley se encuentren condenadas por tribunales militares, con posterioridad al 11 de septiembre de 1973.

Artículo 3 No quedarán comprendidas en la amnistía a que se refiere el artículo 1, las personas respecto de las cuales hubiere acción penal vigente en su contra por los delitos de parricidio, infanticidio, robo con fuerza en las cosas, o con violencias o intimidación en las personas, elaboración o tráfico de estupefacientes, sustracción de menores de edad, corrupción de menores, incendios y otros estragos; violación, estupro, incesto, manejo en estado de ebriedad, malversación de caudales o efectos públicos, fraudes y exacciones ilegales, estafas y otros engaños, abusos deshonestos, delitos contemplados en el decreto ley número 280, de 1974, y sus posteriores modificaciones; cohecho, fraude y contrabando aduanero y delitos previstos en el Código Tributario.

Artículo 4 Tampoco serán favorecidas con la aplicación del artículo 1, las personas que aparecieren responsables, sea en calidad de autores, cómplices o encubridores, de los hechos que se investigan en proceso rol N 192-78 del Juzgado Militar de Santiago, Fiscalía Ad Hoc.

Artículo 5 Las personas favorecidas por el presente decreto ley, que se encuentren fuera del territorio de la República, deberán someterse a lo dispuesto en el artículo 3 del decreto ley N 81, de 1973, para reingresar al país.
Regístrese en la Contraloría General de la República, publíquese en el Diario Oficial e insértese en la Recopilación Oficial de dicha Contraloría. AUGUSTO PINOCHET UGARTE, General de Ejército, Presidente de la República. JOSE T. MERINO CASTRO, Almirante, Comandante en Jefe de la Armada. GUSTAVO LEIGH GUZMAN, General del Aire, Comandante en Jefe de la Fuerza Aérea. CESAR MENDOZA DURAN, General Director General de Carabineros. Sergio Fernández Fernández, Ministro del Interior; Mónica Madariaga Gutiérrez, Ministro de Justicia.

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