University of Minnesota

Inter-Am. C.H.R., OEA/Ser.L/V/II.37, Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Chile, Doc. 19 corr. 1 (1976).





American Declaration. Article XXI. Every person has the right to assemble peacefully with others in a formal public meeting or an informal gathering, in connection with matters of common interest of any nature.

Article XXII. Every person has the right to associate with others to promote, exercise and protect his legitimate interests of a political, economic, religious, social, cultural, professional, labor union or other nature.

1. On October 20, 1976, we wrote to the Chilean Government requesting the following information:

a) Do Decree-laws 77, 198 and other that restrict the exercise of the right of assembly and association continue in effect? What new standards have been issued on this subject?

b) Is it true that, in the renewal of authorities of some of the guild entities—for example, the College of Lawyers [bar Association]—there has been some intervention by the Ministry of the Interior? If this has occurred, what has it consisted of, and what dispositions regulate it?

c) Is it possible or not, to carry out in a private house, a meeting, during the day or at night, peaceably, such as a family celebration, without need of giving prior notice or requesting prior authorization from any authority, and, if such authorization is required, from what authority?

d) Is the freedom to associate in labor unions recognized at present in Chile, and to what extent? Is the formation or organization of trade unions or federations of such associations permitted? Is the governing of trade unions by their own members permitted, without intervention from authorities from outside? May they freely administer their own funds? Is their freedom to negotiate with their employers recognized?

e) Is the free carrying out of religious services of a public character, outside of churches, permitted? Under what conditions?

f) For the purpose of not extending excessively this request for information, could the Government let us know whether it has taken into consideration in any respect the recommendations made by the Working Group of the International Labor Office, which carried out a visit to Chile, approved by the Administrative Council of the International Labor Office, without having this request imply any pronouncement by this Commission concerning such recommendations? With regard to what subjects? Can the Government of Chile let this Commission know what dispositions have been adopted?

2. The Government of Chile has not answered this questionnaire, either, because the questions do not refer to individual cases (Note 384 from the Minister of Foreign Relations, dated January 8, 1976, which arrived at the Commission offices on January 22, 1976, quoted in the introductory Chapter, point 10, of this report.)

3. In view of the necessity of having to take recourse to other sources of information, we shall commence with the liberty to associate in labor unions, and with regard to this, the conclusions arrived at by the Commission of Investigation sent to Chile by the International Labor Office (Document G.B. 196/4/9, 196a Assembly, Geneva, May 30-31, 1975.)

The Commission comprised Messrs. José Luis Bustamante y Rivero, Jacques Ducoux and H.S. Kirkaldy, who carried out an investigation in loco after we did.

Among the conclusions of that Commission, the following merit special mention:

a) “The events in Chile have had a profound impact upon public opinion, and upon all trends of thought in the international trade union movement, irrespective of their political leanings or ideologies. The complaints presented to the ILO contain grave accusations not only of infringement of trade union rights but also, and in particular, of infringement of basic human rights pertaining to the lives, personal safety and freedom of many trade unionists.” (Point 471)

b) “In the specific case now under consideration (dissolution of the CUT), the Commission cannot disregard the exceptional situation created in Chile by the change of regime. Nor can it disregard the fact that the previous legislation permitted dissolution of trade unions by decree. The Commission, however, in the light of the foregoing considerations, concludes that the dissolution of the CUT by government decision was not in conformity with the principles of freedom of association.” (Point 485)

c) In the case of two confederations of unions in the agricultural sector, which the new authorities considered to have been involved in excesses committed during the political period prior to September 11, 1973, the Commission of the International Labor Office “considers that the Government and the local authorities should have dealt with these matters by identifying the persons responsible and bringing them before the courts, without going so far as to dissolve the unions by means of military orders or prevent the two confederations in question and their affiliated organizations by any other means from lawfully carrying on the activities specifically assigned to them in the trade union field.” (Point 489)

d) “In the teaching profession, the Single Union of Workers in Education (SUTE) and the National Association of Education Service Employees (ANESE) are being run by Government-appointed supervisory committees, and neither of them is able to engage in any really effective trade union activity. The reasons given in the case of the SUTE are based on the need to verify whether the union’s investments were consistent with its aims and purposes. As for the ANESE, it is claimed that it was engaged in trade union and political activities in contravention of the law and of its own by-laws. In the case of the SUTE, it appears to be the Government’s intention to replace this union by a College of Teachers.”

“The Commission is of the opinion that the supervisory committees appointed for both these organizations could have submitted their reports in the period which has elapsed, and that in any case it is for the courts to decide what action is to be taken upon these reports, with due respect for the right of the organization concerned to be heard in their own defense. These organizations should be given the opportunity to normalize their position without delay, and in this connection the Commission feels bound to express its concern at the action it is proposed to take with respect to the SUTE, since, in accordance with the general principles of freedom of association, it is for the teachers themselves to decide what organization they consider appropriate to further and defend their interests, and to become members of it.” (Points 490 and 491)

e) After evaluating the reports received with respect to other unions which have had the collection of union dues by the check-off system suspended, or which have had their premises searched and have had their documents and office equipment impounded, or have been deprived of their quarters, etc., the Commission of the ILO expresses the opinion that “these various situations show that there have been specific cases of infringement, obstruction or prevention of the exercise of trade union rights which the Government should have remedied, or to which it should have helped to find a solution.” (Conclusion 493)

f) Directly related to liberty of association in trade unions is the problem of the death or execution of trade union leaders. After having taken note of the denial of the Government that trade union leaders have been executed in their capacity as such or for their purely union activities, the Commission of the ILO formulate these three conclusions:

498. As regards the trade union leaders condemned by the military courts, the Commission noted the summary character of the procedure, the absence of adequate guarantees for the defense of the accused, the non-existence of any right of appeal and the retroactive application of the state of war and of certain penalties that had been increased.

499. The Commission also noted the large number of trade union officials who, according to the Government, were put to death in pursuance of the so-called Fugitives Act. In addition, the Commission cannot pass over in silence the cases of death as a result of the tortures inflicted, since the information available on the subject, as will be seen later, substantiates the allegations made to this effect. Other cases of officials or former officials executed in special circumstances have been mentioned in the relevant chapter of this report.

500. In the absence of elementary safeguards, and in the absence of any information from the Government concerning the reasons for most of the deaths, the Commission considers that the Government has failed to prove that these deaths took place for reasons other than that these persons were trade unionists or that they exercised trade union activities. Even though there may have been widespread confusion in this initial period, all these circumstances show that the safeguards required to ensure respect for human rights in relation to personal safety were severely impaired, with all the irreparable consequences that have resulted from this situation in the case of an appreciable number of trade union officials.

g) Likewise directly related with the subject of liberty of association in trade unions is the question concerning detention of union leaders. “According to the Government,” states the Commission of the ILO, “in no case were officials arrested on account of their trade union activities, but because they had committed offenses such as the unlawful possession of weapons, had taken part in clashes with the armed forces or were extremists.” (Conclusion 501)

Despite this, the Commission considered it necessary to include among its conclusions, the following three:

506. There are other important aspects to be taken into account in connection with these detentions. One of them, of the utmost gravity, concerns the disappearance, in some cases without trace, of persons arrested by the authorities and who cannot be identified. As regards those persons detained, it is impossible to obtain news of these persons, some of whom are trade union officials, until several weeks later, when the authorities recognize the arrest and issue the appropriate warrant. In the meantime these people are subjected to interrogation. Any appeals made to the Supreme Court under the amparo (habeas corpus) procedure in respect of such persons are rejected, as the competent authorities state that they are not listed as being in custody. Furthermore, an appeal under the amparo procedure is held to be irreceivable in the case of detentions ordered by the Executive Power by virtue of the state of siege.

507. The other aspect—even more serious—is that of ill treatment. The Commission has received detailed particulars directly from a number of trade union officials who have been subjected to physical coercion, in some cases causing severe injury from the after-effects of which they are still suffering. Information in the same vein has also been supplied from various sources considered by the Commission to be trustworthy, including eye-witnesses who gave evidence in Geneva and others in Chile.”

509. Trade union officials, like everybody else, have a duty to respect the law, and they are not entitled to any immunity if they break it. Nevertheless, the Commission considers that the lack of adequate safeguards has made it possible, and is still making it possible for trade union officials to be victimized by unjust decisions, and has allowed many of them to be subjected to unwarranted treatment. This lack of safeguards is likely to create a feeling of insecurity and even of fear which cannot fail to affect the exercise of trade union rights.

h) On the subject of trade union activities, the point of view of the Commission of the ILO is summarized as follows:

The Commission has examined the various restrictions imposed on trade union activities, and has also consulted trade union leaders as to the kind of changes they would like to see in connection with the various aspects under consideration. On the basis of all the information and viewpoints compiled, including those expressed by those officials most favorably disposed towards the present Government, the Commission has come to the conclusion that there is a general feeling that there should be a return to a normal situation as soon as possible in the trade union and industrial relations field. To achieve this it is considered necessary that the Government should recognize in law and in practice the right to elect trade union executive committees in full freedom, so that the workers may choose for themselves the leaders they wish to have represent them, and these leaders may have the feeling that they are performing their functions with a legitimate mandate from their members; the right to hold meetings without hindrance in order to discuss freely problems and economic and social demands; and the right to bargain collectively and to strike, so that trade unions may effectively further and defend the rights of the workers. [Point 524]

i) The Commission of the ILO began its final recommendations with the observation that it “considers that the time has come for steps to be taken to put an end to the serious infringements of the principles of freedom of association and to ensure respect for the civil liberties which are essential to the exercise of trade union rights, and without which the very concept of such rights is meaningless…” [Conclusion 525]

And after formulating recommendations with specific reference to labor union activities, the Commission of the ILO adds the following, in points 538 and 540 of its report:

538. The implementation of these recommendations, while it will contribute towards the normalization of the trade union movement, will not suffice to ensure the free exercise of trade union rights. Many trade unionists will continue to be pursued by a feeling of constraint, and even of fear, until they are assured that there will be respect for human rights which are essential to the normal pursuit of trade union activities, and in particular the right to freedom and personal safety, and to protection from arrest and arbitrary imprisonment, the right to proper trial before an independent and impartial court, and freedom of opinion and expression.

540. The Commission has pointed out that it would be highly desirable to give priority to certain objectives, namely the release or bringing to trial of the trade unionists in custody under procedures which provide full safeguards of defense and impartial judgment; the guaranteeing of the right not to be arrested except in accordance with the ordinary criminal procedure; and the guaranteeing of protection against all forms of ill-treatment during detention, through the issuance of special instructions prescribing effective penalties. Such measures, and indeed any review of sentences already pronounced, or the application of clemency, or even an amnesty, would certainly help to restore that climate of normalcy which is one of the main conditions for the effective exercise of trade union rights and for the development of the whole country in the years ahead…

4. In the report of the Ad-Hoc Working Group established by resolution 8 (XXXI) of the Commission on Human Rights of the United Nations (doc.E/CN.4/1188, of February 4, 1976), Chapter VII, under the specific subtitle of “liberty of association”, the following statements are made:

183. From the information available to the Group, it was inferred that the right to freedom of association continues to be severely restricted in Chile. The most recent example is that of the dissolution, and the confiscation of the property and premises of five associations of teaching personnel, by decree-law Nº 1284 of December 11, 1975. Among those associations is the Unión de Profesores de Chile, established in 1918, and the Sociedad Nacional de Profesores, which has existed since 1909. As has been indicated in the preceding, the political parties have been prohibited or declared “suspend”. Many other types of associations, in particular those of students, have likewise been prohibited and their property frozen or confiscated. The association of students of the Catholic University of Santiago, which has not been prohibited, appears to be an exception.

184. The Chilean authorities have indicated that they have reestablished “union liberty as it is understood and practiced in democratic countries” (A/C.3/639, page 63). They indicated likewise that 452 syndicates or federations of syndicates have been established between September 11, 1973 and August 1, 1975, and that, in October 1975, 196 new applications were under study. In declarations made to the Group, it has been affirmed that permission is given for the establishment or functioning of syndicates that support the policies of the Government. The Group has received information according to which, in various cases, there has been deliberate obstruction of normalization of syndicate activities, labor leaders have been detained and jailed because of union activities, and the workers who carry on union activities do so under the constant threat of governmental reprisals.

In this same chapter, there is included a detailed reference to the fate suffered by the association, the “Committee for Cooperation for the Peace in Chile.” There follows a quotation from the pertinent part of that chapter:

177. The possibility of effectively protecting the human rights of Chileans who have suffered as a consequence of the events of September 1973, has been greatly reduced by the dissolution, in December 1975, of the Committee of Cooperation for the Peace of Chile. This Committee was created in October of 1973, from the legal point of view, within the Archbishopric of Santiago; it had as co-chairmen a Catholic bishop and a Lutheran bishop, and other churches and religious groups participated in it. According to the evidence received by the Group, the Committee was the only effective institution outside of governmental control to which private persons could go for legal assistance for political prisoners, and through which there could be brought to the attention of the governmental authorities the cases of grave violations of basic rights and liberties in an effort to obtain remedy. In addition to these functions, the Committee carried out other charitable and humanitarian activities to attend to the urgent economic, social and spiritual needs of broad sectors of the population, among them those who had suffered at the hands of the DINA. In September, 1975, there were working for the Committee in Santiago and in the rest of the country, some 180 persons, among whom there were lawyers and physicians. Even though the work of the Committee was exclusively in humanitarian tasks, which were carried out entirely within the legal framework existing in the country, in 1975, there was nevertheless initiated a campaign of harrying and persecution of members of the Committee, a campaign which was intensified in the last months of the year.

The matter was concluded with a letter from the President of the Republic to Cardinal Archbishop Silva Henríquez, dated November 11, 1975, in which General Pinochet stated that the Committee for the Peace “is a medium which Marxist-Leninists are using to create problems that disturb the tranquility of the citizenry and the necessary quietude,” the reason which he gives to the Cardinal Archbishop for considering it “completely appropriate to adopt measures to the end that the “Committee for the Peace come to an end.”

The reply of Cardinal Silva Henríquez, dated November 14, 1975, states:

I have received and carefully considered your communication of November 11, referring to the activities of the Committee for the Peace and which sets forth the appropriateness of putting an end to these activities, for the benefit of the tranquility of the citizenry.

I must manifest first, frankly, my view in the sense that the Committee for Peace has been carrying out, in the midst of very difficult circumstances, a welfare work of a clearly evangelical nature and within the framework of existing legislation. The fact that the purity of the services it has been giving has been occasionally susceptible to the interposition of elements outside of its original purpose is a risk inherent in all good works, from which no institution may be infallibly exempted. The information that I have available gives basis, in my own case, for an overall judgment concerning the activities of the Committee which is very different from that expressed by Your Excellency, which is that this organization is simply a medium used by Marxist-Leninist to disturb the quietude of the social body. It is certain—as I stated publicly, in celebrating the second anniversary (30-X-1975)—that in this organization, as in all human works, there are limitations and insufficiencies; but it carries out also, in prevalent measure, noble and sincere efforts, crowned by a fecundity that only God knows, even though we have been able to appreciate its glow. Therefore, I cannot share the judgment of Your Excellency.

With the same frankness, I must, immediately, express my conviction that the measure envisaged by Your Excellency—in the sense that we proceed to dissolve the Committee—will probably bring about—within, and especially outside of, Chile—damage which is considerably grater than that which it is intended to avoid. I honestly hope that I am mistaken in this; but the tendencies and experience available up to the present point unequivocally in that direction. If that occurs, it will not be our responsibility.

The churches that took part in the formation of the Committee have, however, analyzed the proposition of Your Excellency with all the respect and profound thought that the high position of the exponent and the gravity of the case require. Taking into consideration that the best of intentions conflict, at times, with insuperable images and prejudices, and that the efficacy of a work of mercy is resented when it generates—without attempting to do so—animadversions out of proportion with the good that it brings about, we have agreed to accept this requirement of the Supreme Government—with the express reservation that the works of charity and religion unfolded up to now by the Committee, on behalf of those who suffer various forms of poverty, shall continue to be carried out with our own and the respective church organizations, and always within a framework of fraternal ecumenical collaboration.

The Churches taking part believe that they are contributing thus, with not a little sacrifice, to the strengthening of a positive relationship and a reciprocal understanding between the Government and the various religious creeds, a relationship which it considered to be of maximum importance for the tasks of development and peace that urgently confront our Nation.

The procedures for dissolving the Committee, and the compliance with obligations that derive from it, will require, for their execution, a reasonable time. Your Excellency will be informed promptly concerning the details. For our part, we are confident that society and the Government which represents it, will know how to receive with a spirit of equanimity and recognition those who have tried to serve with abnegation, from the Committee, the high interests of mercy.

Finally, I bring to Your Excellency’s attention the fact that the number of Churches that have taken part in the Committee and the number of agencies that have collaborated in its work, requires us to communicate to all of them the contents of the letters in which this decision has been crystallized in such a manner that the nature of the decision cannot remain in reserve.

The sacrifice that this decision involves permits us to hope that, in a not to distant time, there will be a restitution of full competence to civil jurisdiction over the matters which have been, up to now, the object of the action of the Committee, with the resulting creation of an atmosphere of social peace in the country, and an extraordinarily positive image in foreign countries.

(signed) Raúl Cardinal SILVA HENRÍQUEZ

Archbishop of Santiago

This letter is published as Annex VII of the Final Report of the Working Group of the Commission on Human Rights of the United Nations.

The Committee for the Peace was dissolved on December 31, 1975.

This background information explains, perhaps, why the Committee for Cooperation for the Peace in Chile (or the Committee for the Peace) did not answer the inquiry that the Commission, after agreeing to do so, sent to it on October 23, 1975. In that communication, a request was made for data and documents related to the situation of the following fundamental human rights, with reference to the period after August 1, 1974: the right to life; the right to personal integrity; the right not to suffer arbitrary deprivation of liberty; the right to remain in the territory [of one’s own nationality]; the right to be free from ideological and political discrimination.

5. To evaluate the degree to which the right to association is severely restricted, if not abolished, in the Republic of Chile, it is of great interest to examine what happened with the College of Lawyers.

a) It will be recalled that the second question related to liberty of association that we made to the Government of Chile in the note of October 20, 1975, had to do with the situation of the College of Lawyers (See above, 1, b). This question—which the Chilean Government, as we noted, did not consider it pertinent to answer—was the following:

Is it true that, in the renewal of authorities of some of the guild entities—for example, the College of Lawyers—that there was some intervention by the Ministry of the Interior? If this occurred, what has it consisted of, and what dispositions regulate it?

b) That question, and particularly the reference to the situation of the College of Lawyers, was not made on the basis of the denunciation of an individual case received by the Commission, but it was based on the contents of certain pieces included in the document of the OEA, AG/doc.500/75, April 9, 1975, entitled “Note Nº 413 of April 8, 1975, addressed to the Chairman of the Permanent Council by the Ambassador Representative of Chile, with which he sent new documents presented by his Government at the 31st session of the Commission on Human Rights of the United Nations.”

In fact, among the documents that form part of the Annexes to that note from the Ambassador Representative of Chile, there is found, the “Supplement to the Final Report of the Mission to Chile of the International Commission of Jurists”, presented by the Secretary General of that institution, Mr. Niall MacDermot, on January 29, 1975.

Under the subtitle 3, “Dr. Eugenio Velasco and the Council of the College of Lawyers,” Mr. MacDermot refers to the situation which was created in that College as a consequence of a request for an Assembly made by Dr. Eugenio Velasco, with the support of 100 lawyers, to discuss freely the state of human rights in Chile as confronted by the governing system of military justice.

Mr. MacDermot adds that the Council of the College of Lawyers “appears to have become abruptly divided” because of the call for the holding of an Assembly, and that the consequence was the replacement of its President, Mr. Silva Bascuñán, and of its Secretary.

The new Secretary, Commandant Julio Tapia—Mr. MacDermot goes on to say—is an officer on active duty in the Air Force. “Dr. Silva Bascuñán protested publicly against his own removal, which contravened the Statute of the College which provides that only the Assembly of the College itself may designate or remove a President.”

“There arises, therefore, from this episode, a serious act of protest against the violation of human rights in Chile, made by lawyers who are not in any way identified with the preceding regime, which the authorities have tried, though unsuccessfully, to suppress by judicial procedures, and which the Council of the College of Lawyers has not only not supported but has identified itself completely with the regime responsible for the violation that has been denounced.”

This ends the discussion of the “Supplement to the Final Report of the Mission to Chile of the International Commission of Jurists” signed by the Secretary General of the association, Mr. MacDermot.

d) As Annex VII to the Note Nº 413 addressed to the Chairman of the Permanent Council by the Ambassador Representative of Chile to the OAS, he provides document E/CN/1174/Add.1, of February 21, 1975, issued by the United Nations Economic and Social Council, Commission on Human Rights, 31st period, Subject 7 of the program.

This document is entitled “STUDY OF THE REPORTS OF VIOLATIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN CHILE, WITH PARTICULAR REFERENCE TO TORTURE AND OTHER CRUEL, INHUMANE OR DEGRADING TREATMENT OR PUNISHMENTS,” which bears the subtitle “Memorandum presented by letter dated February 20, 1975, addressed to the Director of the Division of Human Rights by the Permanent Representative of Chile to the Office of the United Nations in Geneva.”

The Permanent Representative of Chile to the Office of the United Nations in Geneva addresses himself to the Supplement to the Final Report of the International Commission of Jurists and, in doing so, discusses the situation of the College of Lawyers. In this regard, he states as follows:

With regard to a communication addressed by Professor Eugenio Velasco Letelier to the President of the College of Lawyers, Mr. Alejandro Silva Bascuñán, dated August 31, 1974, it is stated in the Supplement to the Report of the International Commission of Jurists that the Council of the College of Lawyers proceeded to censure the President and the Secretary of the College and designated their replacements. It is added that the new Secretary, Major Julio Tapia, is an officer on active duty in the Air Force.

To be more precise: Lawyer Julio Tapia Falk has been the designated Secretary of the College of Lawyers since long before September 11, 1973, having been Pro-Secretary of the Council of the College before that.

At the same time, and likewise for many years back, he belonged to the Legal Service of the Air Force, in which he is at present Auditor [Advocate], with military rank not of Major but of Commandant.

In addition, the censure of the President, Alejandro Silva Bascuñán, is related indirectly to the letter from Professor Eugenio Velasco, but this relationship was not in itself a determining factor.

Finally, it is sufficient to make a summary analysis of the lawyers who supported the petition to hold an Assembly to consider the letter from Mr. Velasco—100 lawyers of the more than 7000 lawyers who are members of the College—to determine that, contrary to the affirmation in the Supplement, many of those lawyers were identified with, and were functionaries of, the preceding regime.

With regard to the participation of the Government in the problem of the College of Lawyers, it is pointed out that, due to the nature of the Council, it is the Council that elects the officers; the Government has no participation; and the present Council, of which in any case Mr. Silva Bascuñán continues to be a member, was elected by secret vote before September 11, 1973, by all the lawyers of the country.

This ends the discussion of the reply of the Permanent Representative of Chile to the Office of the United Nations in Geneva.

e) Among the background documents received recently by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, there are two which, analyzed together, suggest however that the College of Lawyers of Chile does not enjoy autonomy in relations with the Government of that country. These are as follows:

f) On October 23, the Commission addressed the President of the College of Lawyers of Chile, Dr. Julio Salas Romo, seeking information.1

The reply of the College of Lawyers was dated December 31, 1975. It is of great interest to compare the salient passages of that reply, which states, without any quotation marks, the position of the College with respect to our request for information, with the position taken by the Government of Chile, two or three months earlier, in the work entitled “The present situation of human rights in Chile,” Volume I, October, 1975.

This Volume Nº 1 is supplemented by Volume Nº 2 which annexed documents pertaining to each one of the chapters, paragraphs and numbered items of Volume Nº 1. Volume Nº 2 states that it originated in the Ministry of Foreign Relations of Chile.

Both volumes were sent by the Ambassador Permanent Representative of Chile to the OAS, with a note of February 12, 1976. In this note, it is stated that the documentation consisting of Volume Nº 1 and Nº 2, “was presented to the General Assembly of the United Nations in the month of October, 1975.”

The note concludes by stating that “while the documentation that is the subject of the present note pertains to the situation of human rights in Chile in October of last year and was prepared for the information of the General Assembly of the United Nations,” it has been considered necessary “to better inform the Commission, to send it the specified publication.”

So, as we indicated above, the reply of the College of Lawyers of December 31, 1975, reproduces practically literally, without citations or quotation marks, entire passages contained on pages 33 to 37 of Volume Nº 1 presented in October by the Government of Chile to the General Assembly of the United Nations.

We shall limit the comparison, to not go too extensively, to the penultimate paragraph of the note from the College of Lawyers of December 31, 1975, with the final commentary set forth on page 37 of Volume 1.

The College states:

Finally, everything that has been stated before permits us to conclude that, between the state of siege indicated in the Constitution of 1925 and the present regime, which is contained in Decree-laws 527, 640 and 1.181, there are no substantial differences. The declaration of a state of siege, the reasons upon which it is based, and the effects that it produces, are identical under all Governments since 1925. The difference resides in the system of degrees of this emergency regime which now permits the application of a more benign regime than that contemplated in the Political Constitution. The preceding signifies that the Honorable Junta of Government of the Republic of Chile has not enjoyed greater legal attributes than any other Government, and that, on the contrary, it has imposed on itself a set of standards that implies an attenuation in the rigor of the effects of the state of siege with the objective of restoring the Nation slowly to normality.”

Final Commentary

The preceding study permits the conclusion that, between the state of siege of the Constitution of 1925 and the present regime, there are no substantial differences.

The declaration of the state of siege, the reasons upon which it is based, and the effects that it produces, have been identical under all the Governments that have governed under the Constitution of 1925 and the Code of Military Justice. The situation today is fundamentally identical: giving powers to the President of the Republic to transfer and arrest persons, and placing immediately into operation the Military Courts of wartime.

The difference resides in the system of various degrees of the state of siege, imposed by a constitutional reform issued by the present Government, which now permits the application of a more benign regime than did the Constitution of 1925.

The preceding signifies that the Junta of Government, on this subject, has not enjoyed greater legal attributes than any other Government, and that, on the contrary, it has imposed on itself a set of standards that implies an attenuation of the rigor of the effects of the state of siege in consonance with the policy of restoring the Nation slowly to normality.

6. We shall now make a brief reference to the right of assembly.

The preliminary report of the Ad-Hoc Working Group of the United Nations (point 222) collected testimony according to which “The right of peaceful assembly had been subjected to such limitations and restrictions that it had practically disappeared in the current situation in Chile. Except for family reunions and meetings for religious purposes, all other reunions, including informal assemblies of young people for the purposes of entertainment, must be authorized in advance and reported in advance to the police. However, assemblies that may be of interest for the present regime are permitted. It seems that no permission is given for political meetings or for assemblies that are more or less related to political activities in the broadest sense of the expression.”

As a concrete manifestation of this attitude of the Government of Chile, it is pertinent to note that on Last December 3, it prohibited the traditional procession that the Catholic flock carries out on the occasion of the religious festival of December 8.

7. The Permanent Representative of Chile to the Office of the United Nations in Geneva presented to the Commission on Human Rights of that Organization, on February 16, 1972, document E/C.N&4/1207, already mentioned in Chapter VI, point 8, of this report, a copy of which was sent to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights by the Ambassador of Chile to the OAS, with a note of March 8, 1976.

In section I of that document, entitled “Liberty of association and labor union rights,” the following is affirmed, substantially:

a) That “except in a few cases in which the Government has been forced to cancel the legal personality or dissolve certain associations that have confused their guild activities with political activities, liberty of association not only persists in Chile but has been strengthened.”

b) That “since it had assumed power, the Government had, up to August of last year, granted legal personality to 452 syndical organizations. Subsequently, legal personality has been granted to another 51 syndical organizations. During the same period, six syndical confederations and federations have been established.”

c) That “it turns out to be an unjust charge to allege that agreement is given for the organization of only those syndicates that are supporting the Government”; that “the new syndicates bring together more than 20,000 workers, without counting those who are brought together by the Confederations and Federations and which encompasses the most varied activities in the national economy.”

d) That “the gratuitous imputation that some labor leaders have been arrested for their union activities must be rejected. There is no labor leader in Chile who is under detention because of his capacity as such.”

f) That “the assertion that workers who carry on union activities do so under the threat of government reprisals must be refuted with the same energy. Labor leaders maintain a frank and open dialogue with the Government, they attend international meeting and they participate actively in the preparation of the fundamental forms that the Government has undertaken in the labor area.” Immediately thereafter, it is reported that “178 union organizations formulated observations on the Social Statute for Business Firms and on the Statute for Occupational Training for Workers. At the same time, 373 syndical organizations have expressed their opinions on the preliminary draft of the labor Code, the revision of which is at present under the charge of the Tripartite Commissions made up of representatives of the workers, the employers and the Government.

f) That “as concerns the suspension of syndical elections, this step had the sole objective of reestablishing unity and harmony in the labor field. The proof of this is that the effective period of the mandate of the existing union leaders was extended on September 11, 1973, which has meant that more than 75% of the present members of the boards of directors of those organizations were elected before that date. Likewise, the mechanism for replacing the union leaders tends to result in the designation of new leaders on the basis of their seniority in the company and their own union activities.”

8. That which the document to which we have just referred states on the subject of “liberty of association and union rights,” (title of Section I) supports the following conclusions:

a) The situation of the syndical organizations has improved since the Mission of the International Labor Office carried out its investigation in loco and made its report. Nevertheless, the charges contained in the report have not been shown to be incorrect.

b) Nothing stated in the document which we are discussing affects the truth of the acts set forth in points 3 and 4 of this Chapter, or, by the same token, modifies the conclusions to be drawn from them.




1 See the text of this note in point 6 of Chapter V of this report.


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