Juan Guzmán Tapia

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Juan Guzmán Tapia
Juan Guzmán Tapia-IPS.jpg
Born (1939-04-22) April 22, 1939 (age 76)
San Salvador, El Salvador
Nationality Chile
Occupation Judge
Known for Augusto Pinochet's arrest and trial

Juan Salvador Guzmán Tapia (born April 22, 1939) is a retired Chilean judge who gained international recognition for being the first judge to prosecute former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet on human rights charges, after Pinochet's return to Chile following more than a year of house arrest in London, in England.


Guzmán was born into a Chilean diplomatic family in San Salvador, El Salvador. His father was Juan Guzmán Cruchaga. He is of Basque descent.[1] He studied Law at the University of Chile and did postgraduate studies in Paris. He began his judicial career in 1970 and was a member of the Santiago Appeals Court.

Guzmán retired in 2005. In a memoir, The Edge of the World, published later that year, he revealed that he had come under political pressure to drop the case against Pinochet [1].

In 2008, Guzmán voiced his support of Cuba in defense against hostility towards and blockade of Cuba by the United States. [2]


In 2005, he was awarded the Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Award. In May, 2010, Judge Guzmán was awarded an Honorary Degree, honoris causa, by Haverford College, for his steady and courageous defense of human rights, even in the most adverse circumstances. In the fall of 2011, Guzmán joined the University of Pennsylvania Law School as a Bok Visiting International Professor, where he taught a course on transnational justice.

Prosecution of Augusto Pinochet[edit]

On 12 January 1998, human rights lawyers in Chile submitted the first of more than 70 lawsuits against General Pinochet. Guzmán was appointed to take charge of the investigation. Arrested in London in October 1998 under orders of Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón, Pinochet was finally deemed unfit for trial and returned home in March 2000.

In June 1999, Guzmán ordered the arrest of five retired military officers — including a general — for their part in a military squad whose exploits became known in Chile as the Caravan of Death. The members of this squad are accused of killing more than 70 opponents of the military government in October 1973, shortly after a coup d'état on September 11 that overthrew the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende.

Guzmán secured the arrests of the accused by applying a used interpretation of the 1978 auto-amnesty law. He argued that since many of the bodies of the military squad's victims were still missing, it could be argued legally that these people are still kidnapped. Therefore, Guzmán argued, the crime is continuing and neither the auto-amnesty law nor the statute of limitations can be applied until the bodies are found: permanent sequestration crime was created by this jurisprudence, thus permitting prosecution for the forced disappearances.

In November 1999, Guzmán sent to Pinochet in London a list of 75 questions, which the General refused to answer. On 3 March 2000, Pinochet returned to Chile. Three days later, Guzmán entered a request for Pinochet's parliamentary immunity to be lifted.

Answering to this request, the Supreme Court of Chile stripped Pinochet's immunity in August 2000, and later declared him fit to stand trial.

In December 2000, Guzmán formally charged Pinochet for kidnapping during his 1973–1990 dictatorship, and questioned him for two hours in January 2001 after doctors said he was fit to undergo interrogation. That same month, Guzmán placed the general under house arrest.

In July 2001, the charges were suspended and later dropped on health grounds. In May 2004, the Court stripped Pinochet again of his immunity from prosecution over fresh charges concerning Operation Condor. In September 2005, the Court acceded to Juan Guzmán's request to strip Pinochet of his immunity concerning Operation Colombo.

A feature-length documentary about Juan Guzmán's attempts to bring Pinochet to justice for human rights crimes was completed in 2008. The film, entitled "The Judge and the General", was produced by West Wind Productions.