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Human Rights in Chile

To the Editors:

Your readers may be interested in the following report on human rights in Chile from the January-February 1983 issue of Freedom Appeals, prepared by Freedom House.

Ludmilla Thorne

Director

Center for Appeals for Freedom

New York City

According to three reports prepared by the Chilean Commission on Human Rights for the period January 1 through September 30, 1982, the number of persons arrested and tortured in Chile has been steadily on the rise. A large portion of the information included in the three reports was provided by the Vicarate of Solidarity of the Catholic Archdiocese of Santiago de Chile.

By the end of September 1982 the Commission registered 1,185 instances of individual and mass arrests.1 During the entire year of 1981 there were 908 such cases. In addition, the regular and secret police have been carrying out a campaign of brief arrests described as “detentions for reason of public order” which can last from a few hours to a few days. Statistics for such arrests are available only for May and June 1982. In May there were 1,091 such cases and in June 3,069, making a total of 4,160.

If these figures are added to the registered arrests previously cited, the total number of known arrests that took place in Chile during the first nine months of 1982 comes to 5,345, an average of 19.5 per day.

The Commission’s seventy-five-page report for January to June 1982, complemented by five appendices, also provides information on the use of torture during the past four years. Appendix No. 4 indicates that in 1979 there were 49 recorded cases of torture (often carried out with the aid of electric devices); in 1980 there were 46; in 1981 the number was 62; and during the first six months of 1982 there were 65. In August 1982, 9 additional cases of torture were recorded, and in September, 13, making a total of 87 cases for the first nine months of 1982.

The Commission’s reports pointed out that the question of foreign exile, which directly affects 37,418 persons, has not been genuinely addressed by the Chilean government.2 Among those forcibly exiled is Dr. Jaime Castillo Velasco, the founder of the Chilean Commission on Human Rights, who was exiled along with three other opposition leaders on August 11, 1981. Dr. Castillo, a prominent lawyer and former Minister of Justice under President Eduardo Frei, continues to live in exile in Caracas, Venezuela.

The reports cite a number of other specific cases of human-rights violations. Among these was the closing on September 24, 1982, of APSI, a foreign affairs magazine which has been critical of the Chilean military government. The director of Agence France-Presse, Michel Iriart, was expelled from Chile and three Chilean journalists, Jesus Diaz, Carlos Caucaman, and Romulo Fuentes were arrested and tortured with electric rods for allegedly participating in the clandestine publishing of the Communist newspaper El Siglo (The Century).

On September 9 the well-known writer Jorge Edwards, author of Persona Non Grata, was prevented from giving a lecture at the University of Santiago. He is currently the president of the Committee for Freedom of Expression of the Chilean Commission on Human Rights.

The Commission concludes its nine-month survey by stating that it “…leads to very negative conclusions regarding Chilean economic, social, political, and juridical order….”

  1. 1

    After this summary was prepared, Freedom House received the Chilean Commission’s report for November 1982, showing 242 individual and mass arrests for October and 22 for November; this brings the eleven-month 1982 total to 1,449. December figures have not as yet been received from the Commission.

  2. 2

    On October 25, 1982, the government of Chile announced the creation of a five-member commission to consider repatriation of persons in exile. In mid-December the commission submitted to President Pinochet a list of more than 500 recommended names. On December 24 the government announced the names of 125 persons who were acceptable for repatriation. Among these two were dead, several were already in Chile, and a number were teenagers who would not consider returning without their parents. A few days later the commission was dissolved. (Information from the Chilean Commission on Human Rights.)

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