DETENTION FOR AN INDETERMINATE TIME AND PERSONS WHO HAVE DISAPPEARED
1. The Commission determined in a number of cases—perhaps in the case of most of the prisoners who were found in prisons and detention camps—that prisoners were deprived of their liberty beginning the first days following September 11, 1973, without being charged with any crime and without being called to testify before any authority, except the arresting agents.
It is true that the Constitution of the Republic does not place a time limit on deprivation of liberty that can be ordered by the Executive Branch in cases of internal disturbance. But it is also true that the Constitution assumes that the Executive Branch will exercise that power under the control of a Congress composed of representatives of various political parties and empowered to demand an accounting of the Executive Branch for any use it may make of that authority.
2. The dissolution of the Parliamentary Branch of the Government, ordered by the Military Junta, along with the absolute outlawing of some parties and the prohibition of any activity by all the others, aggravated by silencing any criticism that might come from the major organs of the media, and by the passivity of some of the Magistrates of the Judiciary, has caused the disappearance of any obstacle in the way of the completely discretional exercise of the power conferred on the Executive Branch by the Constitution.
3. It is very difficult to understand why girls and boys of 16 years of age are deprived of liberty, as constituting a danger for the maintenance of order, for over 10 months; why persons are kept in jail without a single charge brought against them, when foreign countries offer to take them into their territory, and their diplomats undertake to ensure their effective transfer; and shy, after so much time of deprivation of liberty, there was the attempt at the time of the Commission's visit to justify prolonged detention for some prisoners by stating that investigations were being made to determine whether there was any tax violation.
In this way, a constitutional mechanism created to ensure order and the observance of democratic institutions had been transformed into a factor of disturbance in the social life, and into an instrument to attack basic rights.
5. In addition, the indiscriminate use of the power of administrative arrest of persons had substantially affected the possibility of duly counting or registering prisoners, to duly verify their identity. The number of cases in which persons disappeared after their arrest and whose whereabouts were unknown was very high. This of course constituted one of the factors causing the greatest concern and anxiety in Chilean families. There were hundreds of persons who were anxious to know the whereabouts of a parent, a spouse, or a child. The office installed by the Government of Santiago to provide that information was inadequate to reply to such questions.
6. Regarding this problem, the selfless task performed by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees should be stressed.
Similarly, the private agency called the National Commission for Aid to Refugees has done extraordinary work and brought tranquility to many families by locating persons regarding whom there was no information.
1 “When the security of those attacked so requires, the malefactor(s) may be killed on the spot.”