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  • Demonstrators holding posters with the portraits of missing or killed relatives protest in Santiago, Chile.

    Demonstrators holding posters with the portraits of missing or killed relatives protest in Santiago, Chile. | Photo: AFP

Published 18 August 2015

The Chilean government has launched a Human Rights Unit following accusations the army has suppressed vital information relating to the former dictator’s abuses.

Chile has created a unit within the army designated to aid the investigation into abuses committed by the late dictator Augusto Pinochet's regime and break the decades-long pacts of silence.

The Chilean government launched the Human Rights Unit after accusations surfaced, alleging that the army had withheld vital information relating to violations during the 1973-1990 dictatorship, when the regime killed or "disappeared" more than 3,000 people and tortured some 38,000.

"What happened during the dictatorship is difficult for all Chileans. But we're in the year 2015. Today, we have a military that is looking for a way to make itself an institution for the future," said Defense Minister Jose Antonio Gomez.

RELATED: Operation Condor: Cross-Border Disappearance and Death

According to the minister, the new unit will compliment the work of the courts rather than conduct separate inquiries and will be headed by former Minister of the Court of Appeals, Alejandro Solis, who has previously investigated Pinochet’s secret police.

The former magistrate insisted that he did not want to discredit the entire military, arguing the army is “an institution that cannot be stained by the acts of one its members.”

Pinochet rose to power in Chile in a bloody military coup, displacing socialist leader Salvador Allende, as part of a continent-wide movement to suppress the left, known as Operation Condor.

The Chilean courts are currently investigating around 1,000 cases of kidnapping, killing and torture by regime agents, but the process is slow and painstaking.

Much of the problem in investigating these Chilean cases, and those across Latin America, has been the pacts of silence within the military, who formed a vital part of the dictatorship.

Pinochet himself continued to be head of the military until 1998, eight years after his rule ended, giving him immunity from prosecution.

“When a crime was committed by various persons, they could come in with different versions,” Solis told a press conference.

RELATED: How the US Backed Pinochet’s Henchman Manuel Contreras

Last month, five former Chilean army officers were charged for their involvement in the burning of two teenage activists protesting against Pinochet’s dictatorship in 1986, bringing the total to 12 people.

Earlier, seven former soldiers were charged for complicity in the incident in which photographer Rodrigo Rojas was killed and Carmen Quintana was severely disfigured after the two were doused in gasoline and set on fire.

Of this particular case, Solis said, “Many cases can be reopened. If the cases are archived they can be opened at any time.”

WATCH: Chile: Special Military Unit to Look Into Pinochet-Era Crimes

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