In the wake of the 1973 coup that overthrew President Salvador Allende and brought Augusto Pinochet to power in Chile, Charles Horman, a young American journalist, was abducted from his home in Santiago, tortured and executed. His widow Joyce and his father Edmund spent agonizing weeks in Chile looking for him before finally learning of his death. There is reason to believe that Charles Horman's knowledge of U.S. involvement in the coup was related to his execution. These events became the subject of the Costa-Gavras movie MISSING.
In 1976, represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Horman family sued Henry Kissinger and other Nixon Administration officials for the wrongful death of Charles and the family's pain and suffering caused by the concealment of his death. After years of vigorous attempts to obtain classified State Department and CIA documents, the case was dismissed in 1980 "without prejudice," recognizing that information was being withheld and thereby enabling the Horman family to reopen the case should additional facts become available.
Kissinger case documents:
Kissinger full complaint
Memorandum in Support of Dismissal without Prejudice
Kissinger Dismissed without prejudice
Declassified State memo 343
The arrest of Pinochet in London in 1998, which reinvigorated the global movement to bring human rights violators to justice, rekindled Joyce Horman's hope of uncovering the truth about her husband's murder. She joined the Spanish lawsuit that charged Pinochet with crimes against humanity and requested his extradition from the United Kingdom for trial in Spain. That suit led to the landmark decision of the House of Lords granting the Spanish judge's request (later rendered moot by the British Home Secretary on the grounds of Pinochet's health, which returned Pinochet to Chile).
At the same time, Horman's attorneys obtained documents released by the U.S. government as a result of the Chile declassification order issued by President Bill Clinton in February 1999. Several of the documents had originally been released in the late 1970's pursuant to the Horman's 1976 lawsuit but were heavily blacked out. The version released in 1999 revealed what had been censored for 20 years: the State Department's own conclusion that the CIA may have had "an unfortunate part" in Horman's death.
In the summer of 2000, Chile's Supreme Court stripped Pinochet of his senatorial immunity, resulting in the filing of more than 300 human rights cases against him. At roughly the same time, the third release of declassified documents in the United States provided little additional information, and the Horman family decided to file their own case in Chile with Judge Juan Guzman against Pinochet and his subordinates. Kissinger and other members of the Nixon Administration State Department were named as witnesses in the case, resulting in the Chilean Supreme Court approving the transmission of official questions to the Bush Administration for answers. It is noteworthy that during the summer of 2001, when the Chilean government allocated more judges to handle human rights cases, Judge Guzman, the highest-ranking judge, retained only six cases, the Horman case among them.
To continue this pursuit of justice in Chile, Joyce Horman has established the Charles Horman Truth Project to support ongoing investigations of the human rights violations that were carried out in Pinochet's detention centers and efforts to bring him and his subordinates to justice. Research, supported in part by the Ford Foundation, is looking to determine who took part in the repressive structure at Chile's National Stadium just after the 1973 coup. This work has resulted in new testimony regarding the human rights crimes of that era. On May 15th, 2002 in New York, the Project will commemorate the film MISSING and honor those who made it with the Charles Horman Truth Project 2002 Human Rights Awards.
Charles Horman Truth Foundation, "Supporting Universal Jurisdiction"
Lowy’s summary of case outcome in Spanish.
English translation of Maxine Lowy’s article.
Status of the investigation in Chilean courts into the death of Charles Horman in Santiago, Chile in 1973:
January 2015: Two former Chilean intelligence officials have been sentenced in the murders of two American citizens shortly after the 1973 coup led by Gen. Augusto Pinochet. (read article)
September 2014: In light of Chilean Court rulining, Joyce Horman pens letter to Congressman George Miller, Senator Tom Harkin, and Senator Bernie Sanders, requesting further investigation into the death of her husband, Charles Horman. (read letters)
June 2014: Chilean Court rules the The United States military intelligence services played a pivotal role in setting up the murders of two American citizens in 1973, providing the Chilean military with the information that led to their deaths. (read article)
October 2012: The Chilean Supreme Court approved Judge Zepeda's request for the extradition of Ray Davis, who was head of the US Military Group in Santiago at the time of Pinochet's coup in 1973, to give testimony in the Horman and Teruggi cases. The approved request was sent to the Government of Chile for translation and will be given to the Chilean Ambassador to the US in Washington D.C. for submission to the US State Department after translation is finished.
November 2011: Judge Zepeda issued a request for extradition for Ray Davis for questioning in the cases of Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi. Judge Zepeda later turned it over to the Chilean Supreme Court for approval.
January 2004: Joyce Horman visited Santiago to meet with lawyers Letelier and Corvalan and to meet Judge Zepeda for the first time and give additional testimony in the case regarding issues raised by recent testimony of Rafael Gonzales Verdugo.
December 2003: Judge Zepeda issues the first arrest in the case (Rafael Gonzales Verdugo) and declares that testimonies will be gathered from the highest levels of Pinochet's command, and that other arrests are likely in the next year.
November 2002: Judge Zepeda completed his review of court testimony previously taken by Judge Guzman in the Horman case, and met with Horman lawyers, Letelier and Corvalan, to inform them that he was preparing to question new witnesses.
October 2002: The investigation of the wrongful death of Charles Horman in Chile in 1973 was moved from Judge Juan Guzman to Judge Jorge Zepeda.
The US State Department sent two diplomatic notes to Judge Guzman. The notes have not been given to the family as yet.
September 2002: American journalist informs Horman family that the U.S. State Department sent a diplomatic note to Chilean Government regarding the letters rogatory sent over a year earlier by the Chilean Supreme Court to the US Supreme Court concerning the Horman case. The contents of the note have not been conveyed to the Horman family lawyers.
July 2002: Charles Horman's widow returned to Chile to give additional testimony to Judge Guzman.
Pinochet was officially deemed "mentally unfit for trial and released from house arrest. The investigation of crimes against humanity didn't stop.
May 2002: More testimony was taken by Human Rights Investigating Judge Guzman from several new witnesses, regarding detention in the National Stadium in 1973, and relations with the U.S. officials in Chile at the time.
The Judge ordered and televised a live reenactment of victims' testimony in the National Stadium in Chile for court records, For the first time since 1973 the stadium as detention and torture center was being reviewed in situ in conjunction with court testimony from victims.
October 2001: Chilean ex-patriots and refugees in England, France, Switzerland and Sweden who had been detained in Pinochet's National Stadium detention center were interviewed regarding the command hierarchy of the repressive forces and the process of detention, in search of details.
September 2001: A request for investigative resources from the Chilean Judiciary was officially denied to the Horman case.
Letters rogatory questioning several U.S. Officials from 1973 were sent from the Chilean Supreme Court via diplomatic channels to the U.S. State Department for delivery to the U.S. Supreme Court.
July 2001: Joyce Horman returned to Chile with three other Americans who had been in Santiago during the coup, and a Chilean, to give testimony to Judge Guzman regarding facts from 1973, surrounding the death of Charles Horman.
Two of the witnesses had been detained in the National Stadium in 1973 after Pinochet's coup.
The Chilean Government sent a diplomatic note to the US Government declining to move the Horman case to a highest level Supreme Court Judge.
June 2001: The Chilean Supreme Court approved Letters Rogatory from Judge Guzman to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ask questions of several U.S. officials, including Henry Kissinger, regarding their knowledge of events surrounding the death of Charles Horman in Chile in 1973.
January 2001: U.S. diplomatic note requested a Supreme Court Judge for the Horman case.
December 2000: In consultation with Center for Constitutional Rights lawyer Peter Weiss, and Chilean lawyers Fabiola Letelier and Sergio Corvalan, the Horman family filed suit against Pinochet and several of his subordinates, with Chilean Human Rights Investigating Judge Juan Guzman.
August 2000: Chilean Supreme Court rescinded Pinochet's senatorial immunity.
May 2000: Pinochet is not extradited from England to Spain for trial of human rights crimes. Instead the British courts rule Pinochet medically "unfit for trial" and send him back to Chile.
April 1, 2000: U.S. diplomatic note requesting an investigation into the Horman case was sent to the Chilean Government.
March 2000: Chilean Government advised the US Embassy in Chile that a case must be filed with the Chilean Court system in order to be investigated.
January 2000: US. Government requested that the Chilean Government conduct an investigation of the death of Charles Horman.
October 1998: Agusto Pinochet was arrested in London on an international warrant from Spain requesting extradition to Spain for trial of crimes against humanity occurring after his coup in Chile on September 11, 1973 until the end of his reign 17 years later.