Attorney Nelson Caucoto

Interview with Memoria y Justicia
December 12, 2002

There will never be statutes of limitation for Bin Laden

In September 2002 when I had to argue in court one day, a thought occurred to me and I shared it with the judges. We were discussing whether or not to close a case and apply statutes of limitation. There in Court this thought occurred to me, that I felt encapsulated in its full dimensions the dramas that are not resolved on the short-term, remaining open for a long time.

What I said was this: "Your Honor, another anniversary of September 11, 1973 was recently commemorated in Chile. There are many parallels with the September 11 of 2001, but the most important is the conduct of these two nations. I imagine - and in this I will be futuristic - that in the year 2051 when another generation exists, the United States will continue to look for the authors of the terrorist attack to bring them to justice and punish them. I do not think I am mistaken if I say that no one in the United States will claim statutes of limitation prohibit prosecution due to the passage of time or that those actions are best forgotten. It seems to me that the same thing should happen here.

It moved me when I said this and I felt that it impacted the judges. The United States will never forget Bin Laden until he is brought before a court, tried and sanctioned. They will never forget what he did. Not long ago Maurice Papon [Aged French Minister who collaborated with the Nazis by condemning 1600 Jews to death] was accused in court. The world gives us many different perspectives from which to view the issue differently than in Chile, where it is seen as an issue of the past.

We hear many people talk about memory as if it pertains to the past which is gone and over with. However, I am enmeshed in memory all day long. Unlike other people, time has not passed. And that is how it is for relatives of human rights victims.

Memory judges the actions of the present

I would like to point out two examples that illustrate how memory is present in judging the actions of the present. One is the issue of "zero tolerance." There is "zero tolerance" for petty crimes such as urinating on the street or writing graffiti on the wall. But how can we enforce "zero tolerance" when we have been incapable of resolving the big crimes of the military dictatorship? The other example is the day after pill. Where were these defenders of life yesterday and what were they doing when their fellow citizens were being murdered?

The Chilean people have a memory that is not expressed every day but emerges when it needs to emerge. Our political transition has been different from that of other countries. We have had open trials where memory is reproduced. Moreover, Chileans can be proud of another thing. Thirty years after the military coup, we still remember our dead and our disappeared. This does not happen in neighbor countries. And that speaks well of Chileans.

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