Chile: court approves call for US officer’s extradition

A panel of Chile’s Supreme Court of Justice voted 4-1 on Oct. 17 to approve a request for the extradition of former US Navy Capt. Ray E. Davis to stand trial for his involvement in the murders of two US citizens, journalist Charles Horman and graduate student Frank Teruggi, in the days after the Sept. 11, 1973 military coup that overthrew President Salvador Allende Gossens. Chilean investigative judge Jorge Zepeda asked for the extradition in November 2011 when he indicted Davis for allegedly failing to prevent the murders; the indictment was based in part on declassified US documents. The court’s one dissenter held that a 15-year statute of limitations applied in the case, but the majority held that the charges were for a crime against humanity and therefore were not subject to the limitation.

Horman’s widow, Joyce Horman, has persistently sought justice in the case. In 1977 the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed a suit on her behalf in the US charging former secretary of state Henry Kissinger and other high-ranking US officials with complicity in the murders. The suit was eventually dismissed after the US government used “national security” as a pretext to prevent the discovery of evidence. Later Joyce Harmon filed a suit in Chile with the assistance of Chilean attorney Sergio Corvalán and CCR vice president Peter Weiss, and this led to Judge Zepeda’s 2011 indictment.

“It is gratifying that, while our own government invoked the state secrets doctrine in the US case, the investigating judge in the Chilean case spent years of determined effort to get at the truth,” Weiss said in response to the Supreme Court’s decision. According to the CCR, this is probably the first time a country has sought the extradition of a high-ranking US military official in a human rights case. (CCR press release, Oct. 18; El Mostrador, Chile, Oct. 18; New York Times, Oct. 18)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Oct 28