THE RIGHT TO PERSONAL INTEGRITY
American Declaration, Article I. Every human being has the right to life, liberty and the security of his person.
1. In the conclusions of our first report, we indicated that the right to personal integrity “had been and was being directly and seriously violated by the practice of physical and psychological pressures and cruel and inhumane treatment.” This assertion, we said, was based on “coincidental declarations and testimony of persons of the most varied social condition, from various cultural levels and of opposing political convictions whom we found detained or living in widely separated places from each other.”
The Commission added that it was not asserting that a “policy of torture” was being carried out or had been carried out, but that there had been no development of an effective “policy against torture.”
We likewise recorded that in the interviews of members of the Commission with the Ministers of the Interior and of Defense, “they manifested their concern on the subject and expressed the firm intention of the Government of Chile to eradicate torture and, if it were found to occur, to punish those responsible” (Chapter XVI, point 2, of the first report.)
2. As the first recommendation in that report, we presumed to indicate to the Government of Chile that, with the urgency that the circumstances demanded, the Government should provide for carrying out an exhaustive, minute, rapid and impartial investigation of the following acts: “a) the imposition of cruel living conditions, punishments and enforced labor on certain prisoners…”; b) “the application of physical and psychological pressures” in certain establishments which we designated precisely; c) “the reception of persons who arrived” from the detention establishments which we designated “with visible indications that they had been subjected to torture or bad treatment, without the authorities of the [detention camps where they were received] having denounced such facts to superior authorities”; d) “the conduct of the functionaries who, directly or indirectly, had been indicated in this report as authors, participants, instigators or concealers of the acts indicated in the preceding points.”
The Commission considered, finally, in regard to this point, that it must identify precisely the persons responsible for the acts indicated in this first recommendation—whose names, in some cases, we were able to provide—for their subsequent trial by the ordinary judicial authorities of Chile in conformity with the pertinent provisions of Chilean law (Chapter XVII, point 2, item 1, of our first report.)
3. Beforehand, in a note dated July 29, 1974, delivered to the Minister of Foreign Relations of Chile while we were in that country carrying out the investigation in loco, we suggested that, from that moment, a study be made of the possibility of “strengthening the measures for avoiding the application of physical or psychological pressures on the detained persons and for punishing severely, when they are identified, those who are responsible for such acts.”
In reply to this point of the note, the Minister of Foreign Relations stated that, as he had manifested “on repeated occasions, the Ministers of the Interior and National Defense had strengthened the measures to avoid the occurrence of certain excesses.” On the other hand—he added—“as has been stated on previous occasions, our penal jurisdiction holds such acts to be criminal offenses, and the affected person or any person may initiate judicial action to bring about an adequate punishment” (Note Nº 13102 of His Excellency Vice Admiral Patricio Carvajal Prado, addressed to the Commission on August 2, 1974).
4. After the Commission returned from its visit to Chile, it continued to receive denunciations of torture and bad treatment of detained persons which had taken place after August 2, 1974. These denunciations have been acted upon individually by the Commission in conformity with the provisions for considering individual cases.
5. On September 9, 1975, the Commission addressed a note to the Minister of Foreign Relations of Chile in the following terms:
We have the honor to address you to request from the Illustrious Government of Your Excellency information that is considered pertinent concerning the legal proceedings that have been conducted against the official agents responsible, or presumed to be responsible for acts of torture, and the results of such proceedings.
We have taken into consideration, in formulating this request, the declarations of His Excellency the President of the Republic of Chile in the sense that punishment would be administered in cases of abuse or excess in the treatment of detained persons.
In this regard, the news agency, Associated Press, transmitted a report of August 12, 1974, from Chile, with the information that an order had been issued removing from their functions and, in some cases, submitting for trial, some 30 members of the Army for acts of torture of detained persons.
The information that we request in this note would be of much use in the preparation of the report on the situation of human rights in Chile that the General Assembly of the Organization of American States has requested this Commission to prepare in its resolution AG/RES. 190 (V-O/75) of May 19, 1975.
6. The Government of Chile did not provide any information on this subject; nor did it even reply to the note of September 9, 1975.
7. The Commission of Investigation and Conciliation of the International Labor Office, on the subject of freedom of labor organization, after having carried out an investigation in loco in Chile, after our investigation, arrived at the categorical conclusion that the practice of torture and bad treatment of detained persons was continuing (see document G.B. 196/4/9, Geneva, May 30-31, 1975; in particular, see conclusions 499 and 507.)
8. On several occasions, high officials of the Chilean Government have recognized, in press interviews, that abuses of this type have been committed by low-ranking functionaries. But in all cases, they tried to emphasize the small number of such acts and asserted that the persons responsible would be punished (see, for example, interviews granted by the President of the Junta, published in the New York Times of May 15, 1975, and by the Minister of Foreign Relations, published in the magazine Visión on June 15, 1975).
9. During the period with which we are concerned, the Government of Chile issued decree-law 1009 (see Chapter I, point 6) the first article of which provides, among other things, that the application of illegal pressures on detained persons shall be punished in conformity with Article 150 of the Penal Code, or Article 330 of the Code of Military Justice, according to which is pertinent.
But it is likewise certain that this provision, which did nothing but refer to pre-existing provisions, lacks the necessary efficacy to prevent the committing of the acts to which this chapter refers.
10. The best proof of this is that the Government of Chile considered it necessary to issue Supreme Decree Nº 187 of January 28, 1976, the principal provisions of which are quoted in Chapter I, point 8, of this report.
A few days after the issuance of that Supreme Decree, Father Cristián Precht, Director of the Vicarage for Solidarity which functions in the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Santiago, declared that “torture exists at present in Chile.” “It is lamentable, but it exists,” he added, “and wherever it may occur, we place the matter in the hands of the pertinent authorities (cable of the news service, Associated Press, of January 28, 1976).
11. The issuance of Supreme Decree 187 gives reason for hope that the practice of torture is finally ending in Chile. The effective and systematic application of its provisions may eliminate the bad practices which have so damaged the Government of Chile.
The Commission expresses its fervent desire that those hopes are converted into reality. Supreme Decree 187 manifests the purpose of developing that effective “policy against torture,” the absence of which we had noted in the first recommendation in our first report in October, 1974. That is, it permits the inference that the Government of Chile is persuaded that the defense of human rights requires “strengthening the measures to avoid the application of physical or psychological pressures against detained persons,” as this Commission suggested when it was in Chile in July, 1974.