REPORT OF THE INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION
SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN SEVERAL STATES
Under its mandate to promote the observance and defense of human rights, the IACHR has been reviewing the status of human rights in the countries of the hemisphere and has drawn up special reports on some of them. These reports have been prepared on the Commission’s own initiative, or on instructions from an organ of the Organization of American States, and, in some cases, at the spontaneous request of the country concerned.
The Commission feels that these reports, their later dissemination, and discussion of them have helped to change the behavior of particular countries as regards their observance of human rights, and in some cases, the reports have placed on record that the behavior of a country is in accord with international commitments it has undertaken in the field of human rights.
In recent years, the Commission has drawn up reports on 14 countries, some of which, such as Chile, Cuba, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Suriname have been the subject of several reports.
Follow-ups on these reports have usually been included in the Commission’s annual reports to the General Assembly when warranted by the State’s behavior in the human rights area.
The Commission’s Annual Report submitted to the seventeenth regular session of the General Assembly included a chapter with sections on the status of human rights in Chile, Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Suriname from September 1986 to September 1987. In addition, the Commission presented a special report on Paraguay.
In the Commission’s view, there are reasons to warrant the reviewing of all of those member countries again in this Annual Report.
Nevertheless, in the case of Haiti the Commission received a mandate to prepare a special report on that country from the Permanent Council of the Organization. For that reason there is no section dealing with Haiti in that chapter of this Annual Report.
In order to make the information available to it as complete as possible, the Commission, on June 26, 1988, requested the countries mentioned to provide it with any information they deemed appropriate, but particularly information on how they had complied with the Commission’s previous recommendations; on the progress they had made and any difficulties they had encountered in effective observance of human rights; and on the text of any statute enacted or case law that might have affected the observance of human rights.
Where warranted, the Government’s response and any other information from various sources to which the Commission has had access have been taken into consideration in drafting this chapter.
The following sections will cover the status of human rights in Chile, Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Paraguay, and Suriname, since the adoption on September 22, 1987, of the previous report up to the approval date of this report.
The Commission reiterates that the inclusion of these sections is not designed to give an overall and complete description of the status of human rights in each of the seven countries mentioned. The Commission’s intent here is rather to give an update covering the period of approximately one year since the last general reports.
The Commission has continued to monitor changes in the human rights situation in Cuba during the period covered by the Annual Report. This section will describe some of the most relevant aspects of that situation and thus add to the information provided by the IACHR in the seven special reports on Cuba and in relevant sections of successive annual reports.
In these reports, the Commission considered that, in the field of civil and political rights, there was a lack of effective resources for individuals to assert their rights vis-à-vis the State provoking the nonexistence of the rule of law and the absence of political choices other than the Communist Party of Cuba. In the field of social, economic, and cultural rights, the Commission noted in its Seventh Report that the basic needs of the people have been met in a significant proportion.
During the period considered in this Annual Report, the Commission has continued to experience difficulties stemming from the Cuban Government’s lack of cooperation, reflected in the Government’s failure to respond to notes requesting information. This situation has impeded the IACHR in its efforts to obtain information directly from the Government in order to clarify matters before the Commission.
However, the Commission should point out that during this period the problem has in part been offset by a significant change in the attitude of the Government of Cuba, which has allowed visits by independent international human rights organizations and arrived at an agreement with the International Committee of the Red Cross with regard to that body’s prison visits. Amnesty International, the Institute for Policy Studies and a delegation of the Bar Association of New York, all independent organizations, visited Cuba during this period. The result has been the preparation of reports giving a more objective view of certain aspects of the human rights situations. As part of this trend, which the IACHR hopes will continue and intensify, Cuba accepted a fact-finding mission from the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.
This limited but relevant action by human rights organizations based abroad has coincided with the Government’s showing greater tolerance for this work of the two national human rights organizations: the Comité Cubano Pro Derechos Humanos (Cuban Committee for Human Rights) and the Comisión Cubana de Derechos Humanos y Reconciliación Nacional (Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation). Notwithstanding the limited freedom of action given these bodies, they are conducting their activities in a precarious environment that makes it impossible to predict their future. One positive aspect in this connection was the permission given to the chairman of the Cuban Commission, Mr. Elizardo Sánchez, to travel abroad for three months and return to Cuba.
The reports drawn up by the human rights organizations have provided a more accurate picture of some aspects of the human rights situation in Cuba. Thus, with regard tot he right to personal liberty, the information provided shows that as of August 30, 1988, approximately 30,000 people were deprived of their liberty. According to information given to the IACHR, this figure represents a substantial decline following the implementation in 1987 of a more liberal parole policy.
Calculations differ on the number of prisoners held for exclusively political reasons. In March the figure was somewhere between 600 and a thousand; in August, the Commission was told that 200 people were being held for political reasons. Of the 200, there remained 27 plantados (intransigent political prisoners who refuse to accept the Government’s rehabilitation program), a number that was declining, according to reports, since releases were planned. It should be mentioned that Cardinal O’Connor, Archbishop of New York, who made a four-day visit to Cuba beginning on April 18, 1988, received President Castro’s word that he would free 453 political prisoners as soon as they received visas from the United States.
It should also be mentioned that it is not possible to determine the exact number of persons arrested for military reasons, including conscientious objectors who refuse to serve in the military or those arrested for trying to exercise their right to leave the country. In connection with the second category, the Government of Cuba has repeatedly maintained that this problem would be solved when immigration procedures with the United States were regularized.
Still with regard to personal liberty, the human rights organizations that visited Cuba during the period covered by this Annual Report were able to enter the prisoners, among them, the Boniato and Combinado del Este prisons. During these visits, the members of delegations had access to punishment blocks and conducted lengthy interviews with the prisoners. According to the reports provided, there were no longer any plantados in Boniato prison since they had been transferred to Combinado del Este.
According to observations of the human rights organizations the prisons they visited were clean and orderly, with no overcrowding. Further, among the positive aspects of the Cuban penitentiary system were the work plan and the policy for conjugal visits. The former consists of working for wages, on a par with those of workers who do equivalent work, from which food and cloth and clothing costs are deducted. According to the figures provided by the organizations, 80% of the prison population participates in the work plan. For its part, the policy of conjugal visits allows spouses to visit with variable frequency, depending on the inmates’ behavior in prison.
In the opinion of the observers who visited the prisons, negative aspects of the Cuban penitentiary system include the extremely harsh conditions in punishment cells, especially in the cellblock know as Boniatico, in Boniato prison, and that called the Rectángulo de la Muerte (Rectangle of Death) in Combinado del Este. There are individual cells that can accommodate only one person and are devoid of light in which prisoners are held in solitary confinement for long periods of time, occasionally years. The information provided indicates that there were no political prisoners among those occupying the punishment blocks.
These harsh conditions are compounded by another negative characteristic found in the Cuban system as far as personal liberty is concerned, that is, the protracted length of sentences. Added to this is the absence of guarantees of due process in the case of political crimes since the administration of justice is subordinated to the political branch of government and defense attorneys show little concern. Moreover, there are no legal resources available to ensure the defense of those accused.
The Commission views as positive the Cuban Government’s new openness in allowing human rights organizations to visit the country to observe the situation. Similarly it hopes that this attitude will extend to the Commission itself and will be the start of a relationship of cooperation with it so as to resolve the serious human rights problems that persist in Cuba. Such an attitude on the part of the Government will make it possible to approach the question of human rights from a technical and legal viewpoint, devoid of political connotations, and thus page the way toward overcoming any remaining obstacles, in particular with regard to civil and political rights.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has observed with special attention the state of human rights in Chile during the period covered by the present Final Report. The purpose of this section is to present the salient human rights developments in this country as an update to the special reports prepared on Chile in 1976, 1977, and 1985, and the sections on Chile in the last two annual reports.
During much of the period Chile has continued under the rules of two states of emergency: a state of emergency proper and a state of danger of disturbance of domestic tranquility. The former state is declared under Article 41 and the latter under transitory Article 24 of the Constitution. These states of emergency severely restrict freedom of residence and movement, the right of assembly, and freedom of information and opinion, and permit the censorship of correspondence and communications. Administrative authorities can also put persons under arrest in their homes and other non-jail premises for 5 days, which can be extended to 15 if the authority is of the view that terrorist acts have been committed with severe consequences. Moreover, the authorities may also prohibit the entry of persons into the country and expel them for ideological reasons, and impose enforced residence on persons for up to 3 months.
As the Commission has repeatedly stated, the combination of authorities conferred on the government of Chile by the two states of emergency puts in its hands an excessive arsenal of powers that cannot but have an impairing effect on individual rights and guarantees, and there is not jurisdictional rein either on the declaration of states of emergency or in their application. It must be added that Chile has been under one kind of state of emergency or another since September 11, 1973, the date of accession to power of the present Government.
Persons and institutions have argued persistently for the lifting of these states of exception on the grounds that the full exercise of civil and political rights is an essential prerequisite to the validity of this electoral exercise. On August 25, 1988, the Government of Chile lifted the states of emergency and of danger of disturbances of domestic tranquility.
It should also be mentioned that during the period covered by the present report two laws were enacted bearing on the development of the political process now in progress. Law No. 18.700, the Constitutional Organic Law on Popular Votes and Elections was enacted on May 6, 1988, to regulate the technical aspects of conducting the plebiscite, which is considered further on.
On October 28, 1987, the Government of Chile promulgated Law No. 18.662 to regulate the effects of the sentences handed down by the Constitutional Court for violation of Article 8 of the Political Constitution, imposing new sanctions on organizations and movements proscribed by that Court and making new criminals of those who carry out activities of movements declared unconstitutional, those who solicit or receive support from them, and communications media that in any way publicize activities of such groups and persons. The Permanent Committee of the Chilean Episcopate has taken a dark view of the promulgation of this law, for it had been asking for rescission of Article 8.
In regard to the right to life, the Commission will refer to situations already considered in earlier annual reports but not yet resolved. In connection with the cases of the death of Rodrigo Rojas de Negri and the severe burning of Carmen Gloria Quintana on July 2, 1986, in Santiago, the Commission adopted a resolution laying these acts at the door of the Government of Chile. The resolution is presented in the appropriate chapter of this Annual Report.
Concerning the abduction and subsequent death by throat-cutting of Messrs. Manuel Guerrero, José Manuel Parada and Santiago Nattino in March 1985–in respect of which the Commission has expressed the hope that “the investigation now in progress may culminate in the identification and punishment of the perpetrators of this awful deed”–it has to be said that the culprits have not yet been judicially identified despite the energetic efforts of Manuel Cánovas Robles, the investigating magistrate, who at one point cited the participation of Carabineros in these crimes.
Nor, it may be noted, has there been any judicial solution of the murders of Felipe Ribera, José Carrasco, Gastón Vidaurrázaga and Abraham Mushatblit, kidnapped on September 8 and 9, 1986, hours after an attempt on the life of General Pinochet. The killings were claimed by an extreme right-wing group calling itself the “Comando 11 de Septiembre.” The outcry provoked by these crimes prompted the appointment of an examining magistrate who, despite unremitting efforts, has been unable to establish the identity of the perpetrators. One of the chief problems that the Magistrate has faced in his investigation is the lack of cooperation from the auxiliary agencies of justice, and of the plain-clothes and uniformed police, as he reported to the Supreme Court in late 1987.
One source of concern of the IACHR has been the report of the disappearance of five young men following their detention by unidentified civilians. The youths in question are José Julián Peña Maltes, Alejandro Roberto Pinochet Arenas, Manuel Jesús Sepúlveda Sánchez, Gonzalo Iván Fuenzalida Navarrete, and Julio Orlando Muñoz Otarola, of whom nothing is known since September 10, 1987.
Application for “amparo” has been filed on behalf of these persons in order to obtain information on their whereabouts, and information has been requested from different police and security agencies. Notices of presumed misadventure and charges of abduction have been filed in the criminal courts. These legal actions have not yet yielded any results.
It should be borne in mind that situations of this nature had not arisen since 1977, and the Commission views with profound concern the resumption of this practice of detention by unidentified civilians of persons who then disappear, and hopes that judicial investigation may succeed in determining the whereabouts of these five missing youths.
In regard to physical integrity, the Commission must state that reports by human rights groups of the practice of torture in Chile have continued during the period by this Annual Report. Also in connection with the exercise of this right, it must be said that there has been an increase in the activities of groups and individuals who, cloaked in anonymity, have made serious threats to persons who have in any way questioned the behavior of government officials or who do no share positions of the government.
Regarding cases of reported torture and ill treatment, it must be said first of all that the judicial proceedings are continuing in many cases without any responsibility being fixed. These cases are still handles by the military courts when it is found that the charges involve security personnel. This was why the Commission, the Government of Chile having signed the American Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of Torture, asked that Government to take the necessary steps to have the cases transferred to the civilian courts. The Commission has not yet received advice of any step taken in this direction.
Rather not only has no accused military police officer been condemned, but during the period covered by this Annual Report the judge of the 20th Criminal Court René García Villegas, who was conducting the investigations of many charges of torture brought against the National Information Agency, received repeated death threats. This led to his being placed under the protection of the Carabineros, which was not enough to end the threats. Magistrate García Villegas has referred on different occasions to the lack of collaboration from the authorities in his investigation of the alleged tortures.
The Commission must also note that the promulgation of Law No. 18.623, ending the power of the National Information Agency (CNI) to hold people on its own premises, had been viewed as an important step toward the reduction of cases of reported torture in Chile. However, human rights organizations have charged that CNI agents are still working in the “Cuartel General de Investigaciones,” where they interrogate their prisoners without the presence of civilian police officers and, in some cases, in secret quarters inside vehicles fitted with torturing equipment.
These assertions have been made in many judicial presentations by victims of physical and psychological maltreatment, including the case of the university student Karin Eitel, accused of complicity in the abduction of Army Coronel Carlos Carreño. The young woman was seized by the National Information Agency at dawn on November 2, 1987, and held throughout the day at an unknown place, where in addition to being interrogated she was struck, and electric current was applied to different parts of her body. During her captivity in this unknown place, a film was made of her interrogation. Later video footage of this film was presented on National Television showing Miss Eitel incriminating herself as an accomplice in Coronel Carreño’s abduction. According to information provided to the Commission, the young woman showed signs of the torture to which she had been subjected. The Commission must condemn recourse to these methods which, in addition to violating specific rules of due process, betray an utter lack of scruples in the handling of such political situations.
Another particularly worrisome aspect during the period covered by this Annual Report in regard to personal security has been the activity of groups which, while remaining anonymous, have made threats to different persons. This was the case of a group of 78 actors who received threats of different kinds, in response to which the Santiago Court of Appeals granted them protection; the source of the threats could not be located however. Another target of intimidation was Cardenal Silva Henriquez on his return from Europe, where he had made several comments about the situation in Chile; the threats were made by a group calling itself “Acción Chilena Anticomunista,” but the authorities have been unable to identify the responsible parties.
The Commission must express once again its profound concern at the persistence of reports of maltreatment and torture, to which must be added barrenness of investigations by military authorities and the obstacles presented by the security agencies to proceedings instituted in the civilian courts.
Regarding the right to personal liberty, during the period covered by the present Annual Report the Commission has observed the persistence of practices that militate against the exercise of this right, particularly arrests carried out without the observance of legal requirements, persisting reports that the National Information Agency continues to hold persons in secret premises, the holding of detainees incommunicado without warrant from the competent authorities, and the inaccurate information provided by the security agencies when required to by the courts of justice.
Human rights organizations have produced many cases in which the legal formalities have not been observed by officers when making arrests or a failure of the arresting persons to identify themselves and lack of information on where the persons arrested are to be taken, in addition to which they do not state the reasons for the arrests they make or show their warrants to make them. It is easily seen that behavior of this kind arouses a deep sense of insecurity in those concerned and their families, justifying the attribution to security agents of any such action carried out by “unidentified civilians,” who, as is made clear in this section, have been perpetrators of a variety of acts in violation of the rights of persons.
The Commission must express its profound concern at the persistence of reports of the detention by the National Information Agency of persons in secret premises. On many occasions the IACHR has referred to the gravity of the fact that detained persons are taken to unknown premises. It is in those premises that, as is persistently reported, detainees are subjected to maltreatment and torture before being brought before a military or civilian court. In the past, it is in these secret premises that many persons were last seen who today are missing.
It is hence not to be wondered at that the Commission has joined with Chilean human rights organizations in repeatedly urging the need to eliminate the practice of holding persons in secret premises. As a belated response on June 11, 1987, the Government of Chile promulgated Law No. 18.623, in which Article 2 obligates the National Information Agency to bring arrested persons to a jail or a public place of detention “immediately.” Reports of failure to carry out this important formality by the CNI has continued, prompting a detailed presentation by the Vicaría de la Solidaridad to the Santiago Court of Appeals on May 16, 1988. At this writing the Commission has no knowledge of the results of that presentation. It must be mentioned that Karen Eitel, whose case was cited in connection with the right to physical integrity, remained for one day in unknown premises of the National Information Agency, in which a video film was made and where, as she has charged, she was subjected to different forms of torture.
In regard to the inaccurate information provided by the security agencies to the courts of justice, it must be mentioned that human rights organizations have noted that the inaccuracy consists in the failure to mention arrests made or understatement of the time for which detainees were deprived of liberty. The Vicaría de la Solidaridad mentions 44 cases of this kind reported in due course tot he appropriate Court of Appeals, which took place in 1987.
Again on the score of the right to personal liberty, the Commission continued to receive reports that the security agencies had kept detainees incommunicado in open violation of the law, under which only judges–civilian and military–may take such action. Human rights agencies have counted 51 cases of such illegal incommunication during 1987.
The Commission must also refer to the many detentions by Chilean security forces of persons during peaceful demonstrations or because they were carrying political propaganda material. According to reports of human rights organizations, about 400 persons were arrested during a demonstration held in southern Santiago on October 31, 1987, to request the holding of free elections. On December 19, 1987, more than 100 demonstrators were arrested for the same reason, including the youth leaders Alejandro Goic, Enrique Paris and Yerko Ljubetic. Information provided to the IACHR indicates that about 1,828 persons were placed in detention for brief periods in connection with different kinds of public demonstrations in the first seven months of 1988. There are two facts that must be noted in this connection: the first is that a sizeable proportion of the persons detained for short periods were university students who have long been at odds with the authorities, and the second is that the count of arrests is incomplete and the real figure is probably higher.
A case that is particularly illustrative of the abuses of personal liberty occasioned by the Chilean legal system is that of the Frick de la Maza family, four of whose members–Max, Carlos, Ricardo and their mother, Mrs. Amelia de la Maza–were detained on suspicion of involvement in the entry of weapons into the country from the north in the wake of the discovery of one of those weapons in a room of their house that was rented out. They were brought before Military Prosecutor Torres. Ricardo Frick was first put in jail despite the fact that he had severe mental illness; afterwards he was put up in the psychiatric hospital, and then sent home. His mother, however, to whose custody he was entrusted, remains in detention. Carlos Frick, who also has mental illness, was at home by chance when the arrests were made and was held in prison until May 1988. Mrs. De la Maza has lost her income, and after she was placed in detention her mother died, in November 1987. Other persons who depended on her are bereft of all support. The Commission has asked for her conditional release on humanitarian grounds until the case is solved. Prosecutor Torres, who is handling the case, has not consented to this measure of elementary humanity, and she is still deprived of her liberty.
During the period covered by the present Annual Report, the Commission continued to observe grave violations of the right to justice under the legal system of Chile, which has been intensifying and spreading since the present political regime came to power in 1973.
As noted by the IACHR, the salient features of the Chilean legal and institutional system associated with the right to justice are excessive expansion of the jurisdiction of military justice, the generation of a legal system that provides a formal cover to decisions against political opponents of the Government on the part of the ordinary courts of justice, which are thereby reduced to just another element of a system designed to emasculate any position that the Government decides not to tolerate.
A proof of this steady widening of the military jurisdiction is the fact that, according to a study by a former court marshal judge and professor of the Cuerpo de Carabineros published during the period covered by this Annual Report, in 95% of the cases brought before the military courts the accused are civilians. Hence it is not to be wondered that, as noted in the discussion of freedom of expression, below, almost all the directors of organs of the press who have been critical of the Government are today on trial in the military courts or serving sentences imposed by them on charges of offenses against the Armed Forces or the President of the Republic.
The excessive powers invested in the military system of justice have led to real abuse of institution of the ad hoc military prosecutor, who is appointed by the military courts to investigate situations falling within the military jurisdiction. The most prominent recent case has been the appointment of ad hoc Military Prosecutor Fernando Torres Silva, who has gather into his hands four political cases and, moreover, has become the censor of most detainees accused of involvement in subversive activities. The high-handedness of this officer has given rise to well-founded accusations of the defenselessness of persons placed in his power, and he has taken the use of incommunication of detainees to exaggerated lengths. Karen Eitel, referred to above, was held incommunicado for 33 days without even being allowed to speak to her lawyer so that he could represent her in court. The case of the Frick de la Maza family, also already mentioned, is another example of the high-handedness produced by abuse of this system of military prosecutors, to which must be added Prosecutor Torres’ investigation of the Vicaría de la Solidaridad.
One of the laws that blocks the proper functioning of the judicial system of Law No. 18.667, promulgated during the reporting period which grants broad powers to the Armed Forces and police to provide to or withhold from the courts evidence within its jurisdiction. Thus, this law classified a wide range of evidential material as secret documents and authorizes military commandments to withdraw them from the courts if it is considered that they affect the security of the State, the national defense, public order or the safety of persons. This provision not only leaves to the discretion of the military authorities the evidence that can or cannot be examined by civilian judges, but has become yet another obstacle to the investigation of human rights abuses in which military personnel are involved.
It is also important to mention a new device that police officers have started to use according to reports from human rights organizations: Art. 416 of the Code of Military Justice, which covers Carabinero officers in respect of mistreatment suffered by them. This provision has been used by police officers to accuse their own victims. María Paz Santibañez, a music student at the University of Chile, was shot in the head while participating in a student demonstration, and was accused by the Corps of Carabineros of the crime of mistreatment of the Carabinero who fired the shot.
A particularly serious case in the area of the right to justice is that of Clodomiro Almeyda, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Chile during the administration of President Salvador Allende. Mr. Almeyda was found guilty on December 21, 1987, of violating Article 8 of the Constitution, and sentenced to the loss of his political rights and related disqualifications.
This Article 8 of the Constitution punishes acts “by persons or groups intended to spread doctrines that strike at the family, incite violence, or advocate a view of society, the state and the legal order that is totalitarian in nature or based on class struggle.” It may be noted that in its Special Report on Chile of 1985, the Commission expressed its serious objections to this Article both for the broad discretion it grants the authorities and for the severe impediment it caused to the exercise of important human rights.
Article 8 deprives violators–in this case Mr. Clodomiro Almeyda–of the right to perform public duties or hold public posts for ten years after the date of the Court’s decision. “Nor may (a violator) be the rector or director of an education establishment or perform teaching duties in it, or operate a medium of mass communication or be a director or administrator thereof, or perform in it functions relating to the utterance or dissemination of opinions and information, or serve as the director of a political organization or organization relating to labor, student or professional affairs in general, during such term. If on the date of the Court’s decision, (such violator) is in possession of a public post or position, whether elective or appointive, he shall lose it by law.”
The Commission views the case of Mr. Almeyda as illustrative of how the regime that began in 1973 employs the provisions it has enacted to remove important opponents from the political arena, thereby contributing to a harmful polarization of the political situation and severely impairing the right to justice on grounds of purely ideological considerations.
In regard to freedom of movement and residence, during the period covered by the present report the Government of Chile continued to reduce the number of persons forbidden from returning to Chile. On August 31, 1988, the prohibition from returning the Chile was lifted for all persons on whom it had been imposed by the administrative authorities, i.e., leaving in effect expatriations imposed by the Judicial Branch. This provision affects about 500 persons.
The Commission continued to note the severe restrictions imposed by the Government of Chile on the right to freedom of expression during the period considered. On October 28, 1987, Law No. 18.662 was promulgated to regulate the application of Article 8 of the Political Constitution of 1980 for the purpose of adding penalties to those already prescribed in that article. These restrictions are aimed at printed and broadcast journalism and call for large monetary fines and, in cases of recidivism, the suspension of media of mass communication which “serve as the apologists or propagandists of entities declared unconstitutional, disseminate the opinions of persons who claim or agree to represent those entities or those which have been punished for violations of Article 8.”
The Government enforced this Law in June 1988, filing judicial charge against four opposing publications, the magazines Apsi, Análisis and Cauce, and the daily Fortín Mapocho, for carrying a paid announcement of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Chile stating its position on the future plebiscite.
During the period considered, the Commission has also observed a recrudescence of actions brought against periodicals, and against journalists who do not share the Government’s position, in the military courts for alleged offenses to the Armed Forces. About 30 newspapermen are currently on trial, including all the directors of the opposition press, some of them in several trails. Most of these people are at provisional liberty, though they face possible sentences of up to 10 years in prison.
Notable cases in this regard are those of Marcelo Contreras and Sergio Marras, Director and Subdirector, respectively, of the Magazine Apsi, who were held in preventive detention for sixty days; they were set at liberty by decision of the Supreme Court after exhaustion of the remedies of the military courts.
Also, in June of this year the Director of the magazine Análisis, Juan Pablo Cárdenas, who is serving a sentence of nocturnal imprisonment for the publishing of an earlier newspaper story, has again been arrested, this time for possible complicity in the publication of another article considered injurious to the Armed Forces. He was later set free, however, when the responsibility was laid on Fernando Paulsen, the Subdirector of that magazine, and newspaperman Ivan Padilla, the author of the piece, who were arrested and tried for offenses to the Armed Forces.
Meanwhile on August 25 three newspapermen were interrogated by a military prosecutor, again for the crime of offenses to the Armed Forces, and Francisco Herreros, Directly of the weekly Cauce was imprisoned in the Santiago Public jail. The day before, the newspapermen had staged a work stoppage to protest against “harassment of the dissident press by the regime.”
Many other persons besides members of the press have been detained and indicted for articles and views published in a variety of media. Genaro Arriagada, the political scientist and director of the Christian Democratic Party is on trial, as is Roberto Garretón, attorney for the Vicaría de la Solidaridad, for an article in which he summarized that institution’s Annual Report on the human rights situation.
Moreover, acts of aggression and intimidation against newspapermen continued during the period considered. An attack was made on “La Voz de la Costa” (the Voice of the Coast) a broadcasting station owned by the Osorno Bishopric, in which a bullet wounded the announcer, who was at the microphone at the time. Others, such as newspaperman Jorge Richards, have reported death threats both in writing and by phone, though the authorities have not yet identified the culprits.
The Commission must state once again its serious concern over the various legal and de facto restrictions with which the Government of Chile impedes journalists in the performance of their functions. Directed against those who do not share the official positions, these restrictions do nothing to generate the climate of open discussion needed on the eve of the upcoming plebiscite, and are in marked contrast with the intensive use made by the authorities of the mass media they control to promote their views and images favorable to them. These points are appropriately discussed in connection with the exercise of political rights, which is dealt with next.
On August 30, 1988, pursuant to the Constitution, the Director General of Carabineros, General Stange, the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, Admiral Merino, the Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force, General Mathei, the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, General Pinochet, elected the latter as the single candidate for President of the Republic for a term of eight years commencing on March 11, 1989. This designation will be submitted to a plebiscite to be held on October 5, 1988, so that the citizenry may come out in favor of or against this candidate. With this nomination, the Commanders-in-Chief rejected an appeal that the Catholic church had made for the designation of a consensus candidate between the Government and the opposition in order to avert the growing polarization of Chilean society. The night of General Pinochet’s nomination, 3 persons died and 16 were wounded in the peaceful demonstrations of discontent with the nomination. The deaths–two adolescents 15 and 16 years each, and one worker of 31–were caused by “unidentified civilians.” About one thousand persons were arrested as well.
If the proposed candidate is rejected by the electorate, the present government will be extended for one year, during which time the Executive Branch must arrange for presidential and parliamentary elections at least ninety days before expiration of the period.
In its previous Annual Report, the Commission referred to the aspects that the Chilean Episcopal Conference regards as an essential basis for the coming electoral exercise: lifting of the states of emergency, the registration of a large enough number of electors to participate in it, equitable access for the various positions to television and the mass media generally without any form of pressure being brought to bear on the electors. These conditions, in the Commission’s view, must be in effect for a long enough time prior to the plebiscite to permit the rational and sober casting of votes.
The states of emergency were lifted on August 25, 1988, forty days before the date of the plebiscite. On the date of approval of this Final Report, about 7,300,000 electors had been registered, which is more than 90% of the potential voters in Chile, thus fulfilling the second condition.
Access for the different viewpoints to the media is a more difficult matter. It has been pointed out that the Government has far more use of the media than has been allowed to the opposition. As has been widely recognized by local and international observers, the television news programs have been presenting pictures of the President as a candidate since the beginning of 1987. There is a consensus on the point that the military regime began its television campaign a long time ago with the inauguration of works and continual references to the President several times a day under the guise of news.
This heavy campaign to promote the person of the President is complemented by sophisticated television programs presented in 1988, in which a favorable view of the present situation in Chile is contrasted with a negative presentation of the governments prior to September 11, 1973. This message is complemented by constant references of the President to the chaos that would be ushered in by a majority No vote in the plebiscite, and by constant attacks on political opponents under the guise of news.
This constant carrying of the government line in the media contrasts markedly with the severe limitations imposed on any expression that does not emanate from the Government. Television Channel 13, belonging to the Catholic University of Chile, suspended its carrying of notices summoning the population to register in the electoral records in April after only 5 such notices were presented. The decision was taken by the university’s rector and demonstrates how formal as well as informal restrictions operate on the Chilean media.
It must also be mentioned that in 1988 three programs of political content have been authorized for broadcasting on the television channels of the University of Chile, Catholic University of Chile, and Catholic University of Valparaíso.
The Commission has already referred to the severe restrictions encumbering newspapermen who report on events from standpoints other than those of the Government. As already noted, 30 newspapermen are involved in proceedings of one form or another for offenses to the Armed Forces or the President, most of them in military courts. Many directors of publications that take positions at odds with those of the Government are on trial or have been sentenced, including Christian Democratic leader Genaro Arriagada, himself director of Radio Cooperativa and general secretary of the group coordinating various political organizations that will vote No in the plebiscite.
Two examples may serve to convey the severe restrictions confronting the independent periodicals. The first is the case of Monica González, a newspaperwoman who interviewed the opposition leader Andrés Zaldivar, who made statements about personal characteristics of President Pinochet. On the basis of those statements, the newspaperwoman was tried for defamation and offenses to the President and sentenced in March 1988 to 61 days in prison. The other example is the already-mentioned indictment of the directors of the periodicals Apsi, Análisis, Cauce and Fortín Mapocho for publishing a paid announcement of the Communist Party stating that party’s position on the plebiscite.
There is general agreement that radio is the medium of communication that has suffered the least from restrictions, which is not to say that it has been entirely exempt from them. This medium is subject to the legislation restricting the right to freedom of expression under Article 8 of the Constitution, and it has been the target of harassment by unidentified persons like La Voz de la Costa, the radio station of Osorno Archbishopric referred to above in connection with the right to freedom of expression.
It may be inferred from the foregoing that during the period covered by the present Annual Report, access to the media in connection with the campaign for the plebiscite was enjoyed in disproportionate measure by the Government, which has used the resources available to it to promote messages and images favorable to its position in the coming consultation of the electorate. To this must be added the many legal and de facto restrictions that have weighed on the independent organs and on newspapermen and political leaders. It must also be mentioned that the authorization given for the carrying political programs represents an advance that does not, however, compensate for the unequal access to the media deriving from the stated circumstances.
The third condition proposed for the coming electoral exercise its that the electors be free of pressure. This is another matter that requires some specific inquiries for evaluation. Human rights organizations and observers of the Chilean scene today have cited a broad range of resources employed by the Government, which have the effect of steering the reactions of the citizenry in a direction favorable to its policies. Some of these resources are legal provisions and others are the results of practices engaged in thanks to the lack of a rein on the actions of government.
Thus, there is insistent reference to a campaign of intimidation that has consisted in official statements equating a victory of the No vote with the creation of a state of chaos and anarchy. International observers have repeatedly mentioned that the population lives in constant fear of acts of violence, either by the Government or the irregular groups now operating in Chile. This phenomenon reached such an extreme at one point that the Commanders-in-Chief of the Navy and Air Force felt compelled to make public statements denying that a victory of the No vote would bring about that situation.
Another factor of weight mentioned as a means of exerting pressure on citizens is the important functions of the mayors (alcaldes). Cited as an example of this is a document generated in the Ministry of the Interior in 1986 instructing the mayors (all appointed by the President of the Republic) on the ways in which they must use the community resources to accomplish the Government’s purposes. Observers of the current Chilean scene have highlighted the importance of the role of mayors in middle- and small-sized provincial towns. They are obviously devices for exerting pressure that place the Government at a clear advantage over the opposition.
Finally, the Commission must refer again to the various types of threats made by groups which, though not identified, in some cases have proved to be linked to the Chilean security forces. These threats are made constantly to leaders of political parties and human rights activists, newspapermen and actors. As noted in the section on personal security, these threats have been followed by action with the abduction with physical violence of persons who had been engaged in activities in opposition to the Government. These acts suggest that any political activity involves serious risks when in opposition to Government’s points of view.
The material presented in this section indicates that all Chilean activity in the human rights area has been influenced by the impending plebiscite called for in the Constitution of 1980. In the fulfillment of those provisions, the Government has taken legal steps that have resulted in the opening of political avenues for sectors of the opposition.
Besides, this process has been accompanied by intense political activity, which the Government has endeavored to restrain and control when its purpose has been to present opposing views, but has promoted and encouraged when the views presented were favorable to its position. This has been particularly true in relation to the media, in which the Government has maintained a preponderant presence in the news coverage and has excluded messages and images unfavorable to it. This control of the media has been complemented by severe restrictions on newspapermen, many of whom have had to stand trial in military courts for offenses to the Armed Forces or the President of the Republic.
The omnipresence of the Government has been complemented by the intensive use of resources afforded by control of the Government apparatus and, in particular, of the municipal machinery in small- and middle-sized provincial towns, which has placed the Government at a clear advantage over the opposition.
The Commission hopes the indicated limitations will have been surmounted before the holding of the plebiscite on October 5 and that, accordingly, its result may be to usher in a genuine representative democracy, the kind of regime that, in the Commission’s judgment, most fully guarantees the effective enjoyment of human rights.