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Amnesty International Report 1994 - Chile

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 1 January 1994
Cite as Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 1994 - Chile, 1 January 1994, available at: [accessed 25 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
There were reports of torture and ill-treatment of criminal suspects by police. Two journalists and a former naval officer were briefly imprisoned. At least 10 political prisoners convicted under the former military government continued to be held. The Supreme Court continued to approve the transfer of investigations into past human rights violations to the military courts; most cases remained unresolved and in only one case were convictions obtained. One prisoner on death row had his sentence commuted to life imprisonment and another recommended death sentence was also commuted to life imprisonment.

There was rising tension between the government and the military over issues relating to past human rights violations. This culminated with a military show of force at the end of May, when troops in combat uniform remained on the streets of the capital, Santiago, for several hours.

In August President Patricio Aylwin presented a draft law to Congress to speed up investigations into pending cases of human rights violations committed under the former military government. The proposal provided for the protection of the identity of those with information leading to the clarification of these cases and left in place the 1978 Amnesty Law (see Amnesty International Report 1978), thus allowing those responsible for past abuses to go unpunished. The bill, which lacked Congressional support and was vigorously condemned by local human rights groups, was withdrawn in September.

The second presidential elections in more than 20 years were held in December. Eduardo Frei of the Christian Democratic Party was elected President.

The Corporación Nacional de Reparación y Reconciliación, National Corporation for Reparation and Reconciliation, which was established in 1992 (see Amnesty International Report 1993), was informed of over 900 cases in which people had "disappeared" or had been killed by the security forces under the former military government. The Corporation's mandate was extended until January 1994.

The proposal to extend the scope of the death penalty introduced in January 1992 was still being considered by Congress at the end of the year.

There were several attacks by armed opponents of the government. In October a prison guard was killed, apparently by the Frente Patriótico Manuel Rodríguez (FPMR), Manuel Rodríguez Patriotic Front, and several people were killed in a gun battle between police and members of the Fuerzas Rebeldes y Populares Lautaro (FRPL), Lautaro Popular Rebel Forces.

There were at least 30 reported cases of torture and ill-treatment of criminal suspects by the police. Tania María Cordeiro Vaz was arrested with her 12-year-old daughter in March by the investigations police in Rancagua and taken to Santiago. During the first week of her 18 days in incommunicado detention, Tania Cordeiro was reportedly raped, subjected to electric shocks, beaten and kicked. Her daughter, who was held for five days, was threatened with her mother's death. Tania Cordeiro presented a formal complaint to the courts, but those allegedly responsible were not taken into custody. Eight members of the investigations police were charged in November with her illegal arrest but not her torture. At the end of the year, she remained in detention.

Hugo Bernardo Mülchi Cocio, aged 17, was also arrested in March by the investigations police in Santiago. He was reportedly forced into a vehicle, subjected to mock executions and punched in the stomach while being interrogated for six hours. No one had been charged with any offences in connection with his allegations by the end of the year.

Two journalists were held briefly as prisoners of conscience. Juan Andrés Lagos, director of El Siglo magazine, and Francisco Herreros, a journalist on the magazine, who had both been arrested and charged with publicly accusing the police of corruption in 1992, were rearrested in January and charged with offending the judiciary by criticizing the transfer of a case to the military courts. They were held for 15 days on the orders of the Santiago Appeals Court before being released on bail. They were still awaiting trial at the end of the year.

A former naval captain, Humberto Palamara, was arrested in March in Punta Arenas, southern Chile, following the confiscation of a book he had written on the intelligence service, and accused of failing in his military duties and of disobedience. He was released 10 days later and was awaiting trial at the end of the year.

The case against Juan Pablo Cárdenas, a director of the magazine Análisis, was dismissed by the Supreme Court in June. He had been accused of "offending the armed forces" in 1991 after he published a letter about the discovery of a clandestine mass grave at Pisagua containing the remains of victims of extrajudicial executions carried out under the former military government. However, at least nine other journalists continued to face legal proceedings in the military courts on charges that could lead to their imprisonment as prisoners of conscience.

Thirteen political prisoners convicted under the former military government were released. However, at least 10 others were still in prison at the end of the year, despite repeated announcements by the authorities that they intended to resolve the cases of those arrested under the former government whose trials were marred by serious irregularities.

The military courts continued to claim jurisdiction over human rights cases in civilian courts and to close cases covered by the 1978 Amnesty Law (see Amnesty International Report 1992).

For example, an investigation into the 1974 abduction, torture and "disappearance" of Alfonso Chanfreau Oyarce (see Amnesty International Report 1993) was closed by a military court in August. The Supreme Court continued to support the transfer of investigations from civilian courts to military courts.

In December the Supreme Court refused to apply the 1978 Amnesty Law to the cases of three people who had "disappeared" in 1974 and 1975, allowing further investigations. However, also in December, a special investigating judge designated by the Supreme Court to investigate the 1976 killing by the DINA of Carmelo Soria, a Spanish citizen, confirmed the application of the 1978 Amnesty Law by a military tribunal and closed the case. The Spanish authorities had protested against the transfer of the case to military jurisdiction in November and had requested the appointment of a special investigating judge.

Progress was reported in some cases of past human rights violations not covered by the 1978 Amnesty Law. Two former high-ranking officers of the disbanded Dirección de Inteligencia Nacional (DINA), Directorate of National Intelligence, who had been charged in 1992 with having planned the 1976 murder of Orlando Letelier (see Amnesty International Report 1993), were convicted by a special investigating judge in November. Manuel Contreras, former director of the DINA, was sentenced in the first instance to seven years' imprisonment and Pedro Espinoza, former deputy director, to six years. Their cases were referred to the Supreme Court on appeal.

Seventeen policemen and one civilian were charged in September with the murder of three communists in 1985 (see Amnesty International Report 1986). Carlos Herrera, a former agent of the disbanded Central Nacional de Informaciones (CNI), the state security police, was awaiting extradition from Argentina at the end of the year in connection with the killings of union leader Tucapel Jiménez in 1982 and of carpenter Juan Alegría in 1983 (see Amnesty International Report 1993).

The bodies of at least 24 people exhumed in 1991 in a Santiago cemetery were identified (see Amnesty International Report 1993). Human remains found in a clandestine grave in Cuesta Barriga, between Santiago and Valparaiso, in 1984 were identified as those of Juan Orellana Catal n, a member of Juventudes Comunistas, Communist Youth.

The prosecution called for the death penalty for four members of the FRPL convicted of participating in an incident in 1990 in which four police officers were killed. Sentence had not been passed by the end of the year.

Juan Domingo Salvo Zúñiga, who had been sentenced to death for murder in 1992, had his death sentence commuted to life imprisonment. A recommended death sentence against Hugo Gómez Peña, a political prisoner who had been convicted of the 1986 killing of a police officer, was also commuted to life imprisonment (see Amnesty International Report 1992).

Amnesty International continued to call for full investigations into past and recent human rights violations and for those responsible to be brought to justice. However, no substantive response to communications sent to the government was received.

In March Amnesty International published a report, Chile: Torture and ill-treatment continue. It detailed 15 cases of alleged human rights violations by the police and called for full investigations to be carried out and for the authorities to ensure that those responsible for human rights violations were brought to justice. Amnesty International also called for steps to be taken to bring an end to torture and ill-treatment by the police.

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