University of Minnesota

Inter-Am. C.H.R., OEA/Ser.L/V/II.34, Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Chile, Doc. 21 corr. 1 (1974).





1. On July 22, the Commission began its activities in Santiago with the following in attendance: Chairman, Dr. Justino Jiménez de Aréchaga, and Commission members Prof. Manuel Bianchi, Ambassador Robert F. Woodward, and Dr. Genaro R. Carrió. On the 24th, the Vice-Chairman of the Commission, Dr. Carlos A. Dunshee de Abranches joined the mission. The two remaining members, Dr. Gabino Fraga and Ambassador Andrés Aguilar, were not able to travel to Chile because of unavoidable commitments entered into prior to the establishment of the date on which the Commission's mission in that country would begin.

It is considered appropriate to note here that the members of the Commission are designated in their personal capacity, must be of different nationalities, and serve as representatives of the Organization of American States and not of their own countries.

2. The Secretariat, which was installed in the Hotel Crillón, was under the direction of the Executive Secretary, Dr. Luis Reque, with the assistance of Drs. Alvaro Gómez and Edgardo Holzman and of staff members Mmes. Yoly Sequeira, Ligia Guillén and Graciela Salas.


a) Interviews with Ministers

3. The Commission began its work by visiting the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Vice-Admiral Patricio Carvajal; of Defense, General Oscar Bonilla; of the Interior, General César Benavides Escobar; and of Justice, General Hugo Musanti, who offered to provide the Commission their fullest collaboration. It was initially decided that each member of the Commission would be furnished an identification document to authorize him to visit freely, within normal hours, the official bureaus that he considered necessary to examine in carrying out his task. This system was not applied, because the identification cards were not received. It was necessary to conduct the visits in the company of military authorities, who, however, did not in any way hamper free communication with the detained persons. However, this circumstance made it impossible to conduct surprise visits.

b) Visits to Other Authorities

4. Visits were also made to the Chairman of the Supreme Court of Justice, Dr. Enrique Urrutia Manzano, with whom an extensive interview was conducted, and the Secretary General of the Government, Col. Pedro Ewing, and the General Controller of the Republic, Héctor Humeres.

c) Visit to the Commission on Constitutional Reform

5. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was invited to attend a meeting held to receive it by the Commission in charge of drafting the new Constitution for Chile.

The meeting was held in the Congressional Palace on July 25.

The Chairman of the Commission on Constitutional Reform, Enrique Ortúzar Escobar, opened the meeting with a vigorous speech primarily devoted to a critical analysis of the previous political regime. He briefly outlined the constitutional reform that was being drafted and maintained that final approval of it would fall to the Chilean people.

6. The Chairman of the Inter-American Commission made a brief reply stating that any consideration of Chile's internal policies was forbidden to the Commission, since it devolved upon the citizens of Chile alone to resolve, in the exercise of their free will, their own internal problems. Alluding to the presence in the Reform Commission of distinguished professors of constitutional law, he expressed his confidence that the new basic charter would strengthen guarantees of human rights, in accordance with the purest democratic traditions of Chilean constitutionalism, which has been an example for the rest of the hemisphere.

7. No deadline has been set for the Reform Commission to complete its work. The following substantive paragraphs should be noted in the Commission's preliminary report issued November 26, 1973, and submitted at the time of the visit mentioned:

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The Constitution, whose very purpose is basically to regulate collective coexistence of a society with full respect for human rights, shall maintain and strengthen all of the public liberties and essential rights that are designated as constitutional guarantees and which, without discrimination, protect all of the inhabitants of the territory of the Republic.

The Constitution will also recognize basically both the indicated tradition of Chilean institutions, which receive from the Hispanic past a sense of law and human dignity, as well as the contents of international documents that have dealt with human rights in the contemporary world, particularly the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man, the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, and the Declaration of the Rights of Children.

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A contemporary republican democracy requires that governments be selected by the people in free, multiparty, secret, honest, and freely publicized elections, and for that purpose, the pertinent constitutional and legal mechanisms will be fully developed.

The Chilean Constitution will ensure the establishment of a social democracy that will diffuse the political, social, and economic power base throughout the population; a functional democracy that will stimulate and ensure the inclusion of all sectors of national activity in the processes of making collective decisions; and a participatory democracy that will implement the right of all to take part, within their natural communities, in the social, cultural, civic, and economic life of the country, in the search for full human development.

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Hence, it will be the duties of the parties and political groups to generate and animate the government of the nation. To govern requires an overall view that is political and that does not result from the mere sum of many partial, technical or specialized views such as those held by trade unions. Therefore, it is not such groups to govern or co-govern with decisive power, but rather their specialized nature confers upon them the capability of constituting an effective technical support for a modern government.

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Political power originates in the Chilean people, and the Constitution sets forth mechanisms and institutions ensuring their actual, active and responsible participation in the civic processes of designating government leaders and in the other control or decision-making activities that devolve upon them through the workings of their institutions.

Electoral proceedings and plebiscites will be free, with secret ballot and the broadest and most effective guarantees for the dissemination of the viewpoints of the various sectors taking part in political controversy, so that extensive and accurate information will be provided to the people. The people have a right to select from among real alternatives, and hence, a multi-party system will be guaranteed as a civic expression of various democratic ideologies.

To ensure that elections are honest and secret, and freely and expeditiously held; to strengthen the representation of majorities and ensure respect for the rights of minorities, the system of employing our armed forces to safeguard elections will be expanded and improved.

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The Constitution will contain a special chapter setting forth systematically the most essential standards relating to the Police Force, and to that end, will take into consideration the studies being made by the Armed Forces Staff.

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It can be seen from the recent experience with the “Unidad Popular” that that regime sought to destroy democracy and the Rule of Law which our country had enjoyed almost without interruption and which was pointed out as an example to America and the world; and that, as a means of installing a totalitarian system in Chile.

Therefore, the new constitutional structure shall protect the assurance and strengthening of the democratic system and the Rule of Law which are the basic pillars supporting the fundamental rights of human beings, and which in turn make possible the normal evolution of the country.

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d) Visit to the Cardinal Archbishop of Santiago

8. The members of the Commission found extremely useful the interview with His Eminence the Cardinal Archbishop of Santiago, Monsignor Raúl Silva Henríquez, who received them in his office.

e) Preparation of the Work Plan

9. The Commission drew up a work plan comprising the following main points: a) Study of the legal system in effect as of September 11, 1973, and the legal situation and significance of the “state of war”; b) Visits to jails and other detention installations in Santiago; c) Visits to places indicated as detention installations or “concentration camps,” located outside Santiago; d) Gathering direct testimony from the largest number possible of detained persons, seeking to determine the reasons for their detention, the relevance of those reasons from the legal standpoint, the treatment the prisoners received, whether physical and/or psychological pressures were brought to bear in such establishments or outside them, the individualization of the places where prisoners might be tortured, if there are any, the possibility of obtaining legal assistance, the effectiveness of the remedies of amparo and habeas corpus, etc.; c) Examination of cases being tried by Ordinary Justice, particularly remedies of amparo, to evaluate the effectiveness of the judicial branch's actions to protect human rights; f) Attend trials before war councils, and examine cases that have been handled by them, to determine to what extent their procedures adequately guarantee due process and respect the legal rights of the defense; g) Observe the extent of freedom enjoyed by mass communication media; h) The extent to which the provisions contained in international conventions on asylum, expulsion of foreigners, etc., are complied with.

10. It was believed that interviews with persons from the most varied social sectors and with the most dissimilar political or religious convictions would open up new perspectives to the Commission and might even lead it to investigate other fields directly relating to the protection of human rights.

11. The vast scope of the work that the Commission proposed to carry out and the need to reduce its stay in Chile to the minimum time consistent with the importance of the mission it was required to conduct, made it necessary to distribute these tasks among its members. It was sought to the extent possible to have at least two members take part in each task or to have them assisted by lawyers from the Commission's Secretariat.

It was necessary to confine the work to gathering available material, leaving critical analysis of it for later.

12. The Commission was therefore able to compile, in days of intensive work from July 22 to August 2, extensive material, which has served as a basis for preparing the basic chapters of this report.

It is a matter of strict justice to recognize the extremely useful assistance of the liaison officials designated by the Government of Chile, Messrs. Olegario Russi, Luis Winter and José Luis León, who facilitated the travel of the Commission members and arranged interviews for them.


a) New Denunciations and Complaints

13. Once the Inter-American Commission installed its offices in the Hotel Crillón, a continuous procession of persons of all ages and social conditions filed in virtually 12 hours a day to formulate complaints and denunciations.

They were supplied for that purpose mimeographed forms containing the various particulars required by our Regulations.

Many of these persons expressed the fear that their coming to the Hotel Crillón was recorded by the police, which they thought might cause them serious difficulties. Despite that, they stated that they had not hesitated to make their charges, in the hope that they would be able to aid their loved ones in some way.

14. In general, these complaints or denunciations—which reached the number of 576—dealt with the disappearance of persons beginning September 11, 1973, detentions of indeterminate duration without trial, physical of psychological torture; disregard of the legal rights of attorneys, etc. In other cases, our Commission was requested to use its good offices to obtain the release of persons detained without charges of any kind being brought against them, and authorization for them to travel to other countries, particularly in Europe, through the Embassy of any of those countries.

Many of these communications caused the Commission to send notes to the Government of Chile through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In some cases, a speedy reaction was obtained. When for example the authorities were informed that a minor was detained in an establishment for adults, living with them, he was released and returned to his mother.

The complainants in general did not confine themselves to filling out their form with the personal assistance of the Secretariat—in some cases they barely knew how to write—but rather they insistently expressed a desire to speak with any of the Commission members. The Commission members personally received virtually all persons who expressed desires to have interviews with them.

b) Meetings with Chilean Attorneys

15. Two very informative and extensive meetings were held with Chilean attorneys who gave detailed information to the Commission on obstacles—at times insurmountable—placed in the way of the performance of their professional work, when it involved defending persons detained or prosecuted, or simply, seeking to contact them to decide whether to intervene in their case. The testimony provided to the Commission by these professional men, representing a broad range of opinions, was in agreement that their ability to act in defense of the basic rights of persons was substantially limited.

c) Meetings with Wives of Detainees

16. The Commission received a collective visit of wives of prisoners formerly confined in Dawson Island who had been transferred to Ritoque. With noteworthy precision, the visitors gave detailed reports on the hardships their husbands had had to suffer. Later, in direct interviews with the prisoners, the Commission hear their stories, which confirmed all aspects of the accounts that their wives had previously given.

d) Contact with the International Red Cross

17. On August 1, Commission member, Ambassador Robert F. Woodward, had an interview with representatives of the International Red Cross in Chile.

On the above date, he met with the following representatives of the International Red Cross: Serge Nessi, General Delegate for Latin America and the Caribbean; Roger Santschy, Chief of Delegation, Red Cross International Committee; and Bruno Doppler, Delegate, Red Cross International Committee.

18. These persons stated that, when General Bonilla was Minister of the Interior, they had called his attention to the provisions of Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions,1 and he stated that Chile would comply with the provision cited. The Commission was informed that the Government of Chile had been the first government in South America to ratify the Geneva Conventions.

The Commission was informed that the International Red Cross had obtained written permission from the Government of Chile on September 25, 1973, to visit places of detention. It had not received permission to visit places where prisoners were interrogated.

By virtue of that permission, it had for example made 17 visits to the National Stadium.

19. At the time of the Commission's visit, the Red Cross was visiting each place of detention two times a month. As a result of these visits, prisoners were identified; and a card was made up for each of them, with a copy transmitted to the central file in Geneva.

In addition to these periodic visits, the Red Cross was distributing food and supplies to the detention centers. It reported, for example, that it had distributed 10,000 blankets, powdered milk, medicines, mattresses, and other articles. The distribution of these supplies was carried out in cooperation with the Chilean Red Cross and charity institutions.

20. It also reported that, in cases of the alleged commission of acts in violation of the Geneva Conventions, committed by the personnel of the prisons or detention centers, the Red Cross representative had brought such denunciations to the attention of the Chilean authorities.

21. It was also reported that, with respect to the duty of the Government of Chile to comply with Article 3(d) of Geneva Convention Nº 1 on recognized “judicial guarantees” in cases of decisions by Chilean military courts, the Red Cross had sent attorneys to observe the trials and consulted with the prosecutor or judge in “War Councils”, such as for example in so-called Air Force case. However, the Red Cross did not have a continuing service for the provision of legal assistance to prisoners or detainees, although it hoped to be able to establish one in the near future. In any event, the representatives expressed their concern for the recent trials that had been held in the country, particularly because of the death sentences, which would have been in violation of “Edict 44” of 10-XII-1973.

22. Since the latter part of January, 1974, and up to the time of the interview—it reported—the International Red Cross had supplied material assistance to members of the families of prisoners in urgent cases. Such aid had usually consisted of meals, blankets, medicines, and clothing. It had also established distribution centers, the chief one being in Santiago. Cooperating with the Red Cross were the Social Workers Service and the Social Work Service of SENDET. At the time of the interview, the Red Cross was providing more or less regular assistance to 3,000 families (each family of four or five persons) and expected to maintain, and if necessary, increase that assistance throughout the remainder of the year 1974.

e) Audience with a Representative of the

High Commissioner for Refugees

23. The Commission received Mr. Daniel S. Blanchard, Representative in Chile of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, who submitted a very well documented statement. At that time, and on many occasions, the Commission had to resort to Mr. Blanchard, who always showed the greatest readiness to assist it in its tasks.



1 Red Cross International Committee. The Geneva Conventions of August 12, 1949, Madrid-1970 (Convention Nº 1, pp. 25 to 55). The text of the article cited, which is the same in all 4 Conventions, is as follows:

Article 3

In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each Party to the conflict shall be bound to apply as a minimum, the following provisions:

1. Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, color, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.

To this end, the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:

a) violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;

b) taking of hostages;

c) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment;

d) the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.

2. The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for.

An impartial humanitarian body, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, may offer its services to the Parties to the conflict. The Parties to the conflict should further endeavour to bring into force by means of special agreements, all or part of the other provisions of the present Convention.

The application of the preceding provisions shall not affect the legal status of the Parties to the conflict.


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