Chilean Judge Honored at Nation's Top Catholic Univerisity

Judge Juan Guzman Tapia, the Chilean judge who indicted former dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet for alleged human rights abuses, was honored with the 2005 Monsignor Oscar Romero Award by the University of Dayton (UD), in Dayton, Ohio, on Mach 30.

UD, one of nation’s top 10 Catholic universities and home to the first human rights undergraduate program in the country, conferred the international human rights award to Guzman, who described the award as ”more precious than a thousand Supreme Court rulings,” Religion News Service reported.

“It will give me the strength I need to complete my work,” Guzman said after receiving the award.

Guzman bound Augusto Pinochet during last December for standing trial for multiple human rights abuses during Pinochet’s rule from 1973-90.

After receiving the award, Guzman told the audience of about 100 people that during the Pinochet era, some judges "collaborated with a system of torture and extinction of the enemy within" by ignoring what was going on, the Associated Press reported.

"For about 20 years, the crimes that were committed during the long night of the dictatorship were neither investigated nor punished," he said.

Guzman said, "a new page has been turned and the country's judicial system has proven it can carry out its role effectively, with judges becoming the protectors of human rights."

"In Chile, our judges are fulfilling their jobs. Many prosecutions are taking place there, and many agents who took part in crimes against humanity during Pinochet's era have been severely punished," Guzman said.

"Judges are really braver, more courageous because they don't have this oppressive system over them," he said.

The award is named for Romero, the Salvadoran archbishop and human-rights advocate who was slain while performing mass 25 years ago for his outspoken opposition to his country’s war and U.S. support for it.

The award is presented by UD’s human rights program to “an individual or organization that has earned distinction for the promotion of the dignity of all human beings and alleviation of the suffering of the human community.”