The prosecution of Augusto Pinochet for human rights violations committed under his military government took a significant step forward. However, the 1978 Amnesty Law was used to acquit five former secret service agents of involvement in a 1974 "disappearance". Prisoners were injured in fighting over the minimal facilities provided in prisons.


Presidential elections in December produced no outright winner. The two candidates who obtained the highest votes – Michelle Bachelet of the Coalition for Democracy and Sebastian Piñera of the Alliance for Chile – were set to contest the second round of the elections in January 2006.

Provisions for the appointment of "designated" senators and according others lifetime tenure were removed in August when the 1980 Constitution, introduced under the military government (1973-90), was amended by Congress. The amended Constitution also allowed Chile to ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, although ratification had not taken place by the end of 2005. In June, Chile signed the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture.

In November, former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori was arrested in Santiago and held in preventive detention pending an extradition request by Peru on charges of corruption and human rights violations.

Ill-treatment in prisons

Detainees continued to suffer overcrowding, lack of medical care, deficient sanitary conditions and poor infrastructure. In March, 30 prisoners were injured in fighting over sleeping space at the Detention Centre (former Penitentiary) in Santiago Sur. Severe overcrowding – 400 inmates held in an area designated for 76 – forced 120 detainees to sleep in the open.

Past human rights violations

In January the Supreme Court upheld the December 2004 indictment and house arrest of Augusto Pinochet on nine charges of kidnapping and one of murder during "Operation Cóndor", a joint plan by Southern Cone military governments in the 1970s and 1980s to eliminate opponents. However, in June the Santiago Appeals Court ruled that he was too ill to stand trial for the kidnappings and murder. The same court, in a separate ruling, allowed his prosecution on charges of tax evasion and other financial crimes to proceed. In November, Augusto Pinochet was charged and placed under house arrest. The charges against him included the murder of 119 people and the "disappearance" of 15 others in 1975 as part of "Operation Colombo". Other charges included homicide, torture, kidnapping, money laundering, tax evasion and falsifying documents. This was the first time prosecutors in Chile had successfully cleared all the legal hurdles and indicted him.

In January the Supreme Court put a time limit of six months on judicial investigations into "disappearances" and other human rights violations by the military government, but suspended the ruling in May. This allowed investigation to continue into more than 150 cases of human rights violations.

In June, five former secret service agents were acquitted under the 1978 Amnesty Law of involvement in the "disappearance" of Diana Arón Svigilsky in 1974. Although the Amnesty Law – introduced by military decree but still in force – contravenes Chile's duties under international law, it was invoked to absolve the accused.

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