Documentary Screening: "The Judge and the General"
On August 6, 2008, the Woodrow Wilson Center's Latin America co-sponsored a screening of The Judge and the General at the Avalon Theater in Washington DC. The film, directed by Elizabeth Farnsworth, Patricio Lanfranco and Richard Pearce offers a compelling perspective of the human rights abuses that plagued Chile under the rule of General Augusto Pinochet and documents the nations attempt's to arrive at some sort of reconciliation for the atrocities. The documentary follows the story of Chilean appeals court Judge Juan Guzmán and his investigation into the murders of Manuel Donoso, a young sociology professor, and Cecilia (Chechi) Castro. As the story unveils, so do the important questions that accompany; Why do humans revert to torture when they believe they are fighting for a higher cause? And how do we reconcile and provide justice to torture victims and their families?
Judge Guzmán originally supported the 1973 military coup against democratically-elected President Salvador Allende. During the worst years of repression under the Pinochet regime led, Guzmán served briefly as a clerk in the Court of Appeals, helping to write the denials of habeas corpus petitions filed on behalf of detainees, many of whom had disappeared into secret detention centers.
Decades later, in 1998, Judge Guzmán was assigned by judicial lottery to investigate the first criminal cases brought against Pinochet in Chile. The investigations led Judge Guzmán to order the arrest of five retired military officers for their role in a string of murders. In a novel legal ruling, Guzmán deemed that because the victims' bodies had never reappeared, the crime—kidnapping--was not covered by Chile's amnesty law. Guzmán's efforts led ultimately to the December 2000 indictment of General Pinochet on kidnapping charges, and his subsequent indictment in 2004 for murder for his role in Operation Condor, a conspiracy by military leaders throughout the Southern Cone to hunt down and kill suspected opponents.
After the screening, Jim Leher, of PBS's News Hour with Jim Leher, moderated a question and answer session with director Elizabeth Farnsworth and Judge Guzmán. In this session Judge Guzmán was able to speak more personally about how the experience changed his life and renewed his dedication to human rights. The documentary will be shown on PBS in the month of August.