Date: Mon, 14 Sep 98 15:21:00 CDT
Subject: Chile: After 25 years, total govt commitment to truth required
* News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty International *
AI Index AMR 22/07/98
News Service 174/98
After a quarter of a century total government commitment to
truth and justice is required
International Secretariat of Amnesty International News Release,
AI Index AMR 22/07/98 News Service 174/98
22 July 1998
The civilian government of Chile must shoulder once and for all its
responsibilities towards the relatives of victims of crimes against
humanity perpetrated during the military regime, Amnesty International
said today on the 25th anniversary of the military coup.
"It is now time for the Chilean Government to unequivocally acknowledge
the gravity of the crimes committed under the military government and
the efforts of the relatives of the victims to clarify the events. In a
clear commitment to the future the Chilean Government should reject
half-measures to deal with its human rights legacy."
The continuing application of the so-called Amnesty Law -- in reality
a self-amnesty, enacted during the military government of General
Augusto Pinochet -- has lead to the closure of human rights cases,
hindering the emergence of truth and shielding those responsible for
past human rights violations from prosecution.
Amnesty International has long campaigned against impunity, which, it
argues, undermines truth and justice. The Inter-American Commission on
Human Rights of the Organization of American States has also repeatedly
called on the State of Chile to adjust its domestic legislation so that
past human rights violations may be investigated and those responsible
"The annulment of the Amnesty Law would provide the cornerstone for the
overdue right to truth and justice to prevail. It would also fulfil the
Chilean State's international obligations on human rights issues,"
Amnesty International said.
The Commission has stated that "The continued application of the
amnesty law by a democratic government even after the end of the
military government which enacted this law, has legal implications
which are incompatible with the provisions of the American Convention
on Human Rights."
The government of Chile should meet its commitment to the Vienna
Declaration and Programme of Action (adopted by the 1993 World
Conference on Human Rights) which requires governments to "abrogate
legislation leading to impunity for those responsible for grave
violations of human rights ... and prosecute such violations thereby
providing a firm basis for the rule of law," Amnesty International
The legacy of human rights violations committed between 1973 and 1990
remains open. Chilean society is still divided as a result and the
fate of thousands of victims of human rights violations remains
unknown, although not forgotten.
"Lasting reconciliation can only come from establishing the full truth
and punishing those who abused their position of authority to order and
carry out human rights violations," Amnesty International said.
The 1978 Amnesty law (Decree Law 2.191) was enacted by the military
government which overthrew the constitutional Government of President
Salvador Allende on 11 September 1973.
It prevents prosecution of individuals implicated in certain criminal
acts committed between 11 September 1973 and 10 March 1978. This was
the period of the state of siege when thousands of Chileans suffered
grave human rights violations including torture, execution and
"disappearance". Several hundred political prisoners also benefitted
from the 1978 Amnesty Law and were released.
Following the return to civilian rule in 1990, two bodies were created
in different periods to gather information leading to the clarification
of the truth about "disappearances", extrajudicial executions and
deaths resulting from torture by state agents. At the end of its
mandate in 1996, the Reparation and Reconciliation Corporation
--established in 1992 as a successor to the truth and Reconciliation
Commission (Rettig Commission) set up by the administration of
President Patricio Aylwin-- published a report officially documenting
3,197 cases of victims of human rights violations.
The fate of most of the "disappeared" in Chile remains unknown.
Chilean courts -both civilian and military - have systematically closed
judicial proceedings in hundreds of cases involving human rights
violations by applying the 1978 Amnesty Law. The vast majority of those
who committed human rights violations under the government of General
Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990) remain unpunished.
Many of the most serious human rights violations were committed by the
intelligence services -- Direccio[/]n de Inteligencia Nacional,
Directorate of National Intelligence and Central Nacional de
Informaciones (CNI), the National Information Centre -- which reported
to President Augusto Pinochet through the Minister of the Interior.
Although a former head of the DINA, General Manuel Contreras, is
serving a prison sentence for the assassination of former Minister of
Foreign Affairs Orlando Letelier in Washington, General Augusto
Pinochet, in virtue of the Constitution passed during his rule, is
sitting as Senator for life.
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