ON THE STATUS OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN CHILE
of “on the spot” Observations in
NOTE OF THE COMMISSION TO THE
OF CHILE – AND ITS REPLY
The information gathered by the Commission in its first week of work
shows a general situation of disregard for basic human rights. It was for that
reason that on July 29, in an effort to ward off worse evils and acting in
accordance with the requests of a number of Ministers who asked that we should
immediately inform them of any serious irregularity that we found, we sent to
the Government of Chile the preliminary note transcribed below:
July 29, 1974
Dear Mr. Minister:
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has worked intensively,
since its arrival in Chile on July 22, to gather a wide variety of data on the
observance of human rights in the country.
Some of our findings of facts have merited sending notes to your
Government, and appropriate steps to that end are now under way.
It is our intent—and we must do so to comply with the norms governing
our duties—to issue, in due course, after completing the substantiation of the
files relating to this case, a report containing our conclusions thereon.
However, Mr. Minister, the verifications we have already made and our
duty to contribute, to the extent of our capabilities, to the broadest
protection for basic rights and freedoms causes us to suggest at this time that,
to achieve that high purpose—which is shared in by the Government of Chile,
according to the statements that it has repeatedly made—the possibility be
studied of immediately taking steps to achieve the following objectives:
To make available the necessary
means in order that the families of the persons deprived of their liberty for
any reason will immediately be notified with respect to the causes and place of
detention, as well as any later transfer of the prisoners.
To modify the conditions of
detention of minors of both sexes who are now held in establishments created for
adults and who are subjected to the same conditions as adults.
To take every possible measure to
avoid the application of physical or psychological pressure to those detained
and to sanction severely those persons responsible for such acts.
To establish, in the exercise of
the constitutional powers that the Junta of Government has assumed in accordance
with the Decree-Laws Nos. 1 and 128, a reasonable time limit on deprivations of
liberty ordered in conformity with the provisions of Article 72, section 17 of
To take the necessary measures so
that the detentions or transfers ordered in application of Article 72, section
17 of the Constitution do not result, in and of themselves, in actual
punishment, such as unjustified or prolonged forced labor or solitary
To recognize fully the right of
the normal professional activities of lawyers, permitting them free
communication with those persons detained who need their assistance, regardless
of the conditions of detention.
To authorize the exit from the
country of those persons detained for reasons of security to whom no commission
of crime has been imputed, in the event that they wish to leave the territory of
To establish, by means of
constitutional interpretation or other equally effective means, that, under all
circumstances, the remedy of amparo obligates the administrative
authority to carry out the judicial order to present before the competent court
the person in whose benefit the remedy has been presented, with a precise
indication of the reasons and place of detention.
To exclude from the special
courts (Tribunales de excepción) all causes in which there is alleged the
commission of infractions of a criminal-administrative type, such as, for
example, those concerning taxes.
To grant to the pertinent
offices the necessary means so that they may give rapid information to the
families of those persons whose whereabouts are unknown, whether or not it
concerns persons detained by the authorities.
To adopt a standard, mandatory
for all state officials, that would bar application of the provisions dictated
under the “state of war” to any act that occurred prior to September 11,
We were encouraged to propose these suggestions by the fact that, at the
meeting we had the honor to have with you, and in meetings with the Ministers of
Interior, Defense, and Justice, the desire was expressed to us that, if in the
course of our work we should find practices or situations that might be
considered inappropriate for the full observance of human rights, we should
inform the Government of them so that they might be appropriately dealt with.
Expressing our deep appreciation to you for the attention you may accord
this note, and with the sole purpose of contributing to the affirmation of the
rights of the person in a country with such a profound humanist tradition, we
reiterate assurances of our highest consideration.
Justino Jiménez de Aréchaga
contents of the note were reproduced in the Commission's press release of August
2, at the conclusion of its work in Santiago.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Vice Admiral Patricio Carvajal Prado,
replied to the Commission's note on August 2, 1974.
The following is the text of that reply:
Santiago, August 2, 1974
This is in reply to your note of July 29, 1974, in which the
Inter-American Commission of Human Rights suggests that the Government of Chile
immediately take various steps designed to contribute to the protection of basic
rights and freedoms.
In this regard, I can tell you that, except for points 1, 7, 8, and 10
referring to measures that might be taken by the higher officials of the
government services concerned, all of the other items are juridical or
administrative matters that are being fully complied with in Chile. If any
violations have occurred, they have not been brought to the attention of the
Government. Should your Commission have information about such violations, I
would be very grateful if you would inform me of them.
With regard to item 2, I must point out that minors are taken to the
Reformatory while a decision is made as to whether they will be brought to
trial, depending on whether they can be held legally responsible under existing
law. If the Commission has found any case of this kind, I would appreciate it if
you would inform me of it so that any such anomaly may be immediately remedied.
With regard to item 3, as the Ministers of the Interior and of National
Defense have stated to you on repeated occasions, every effort has been made to
avoid the occurrence of any such excesses. Moreover, as has been stated to you
on previous occasions, our criminal law classifies such acts as crimes, and the
persons affected or any person can activate the judicial mechanism for ensuring
appropriate penalties. Again I would appreciate it if you would inform me
immediately of any specific cases you might find, so that appropriate steps
might be taken.
Regarding point 4, I must point out to you that the Government has made
every effort to see that the state of siege does not extend beyond the
reasonable, essential, and minimum time required for safeguarding the
population. I is not now, nor ever has been, the desire of the Government to
prolong this kind of measure, but neither can it disregard the security of the
large majority of Chileans.
Regarding point 5, I refer to what has been previously stated, and I
would appreciate it, in the event any cases of forced labor, or of persons being
held in solitary confinement for an unjustified or prolonged period, are found,
if you would immediately inform me of such a situation or situations.
With regard to item 6, free access of counsel has never been denied and
even with respect to wartime proceedings, Article 184 of the Code of Military
Justice states “(counsel) may also communicate with the accused, and no decree
of incommunication may prevent him from so doing.” This provision is enforced,
and is complied with, as are all other relevant provisions.
With regard to point 11, I feel t a policy such as that suggested is
unnecessary. Non-retroactiveness of criminal law takes precedence over all penal
juridical actions in Chile, and I urge you to inform me of any specific
violation that you might find.
In addition to having taken due note of the items in your letter, I am
sending on this date a copy of your letter to the Ministers of Interior and of
Defense for whatever appropriate action might be required.
I wish to ask you again to inform me, as soon as it comes to your
attention, of any measure or action impairing basic freedoms and rights of human
beings, inasmuch as the civil and military officials of my country, who are
faithful to their traditions, will not permit the commission of acts such as
those which forced them, in order to protect the human rights of the immense
majority of the citizens, to take charge of government functions.
Accept, Mr. Chairman, the assurances of my highest consideration.
Patricio Carvajal Prado
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Reference will be made further on to the significance that can be
attributed to this note, as well as the events that followed it. But for now, we
must say that its receipt gave the Commission reason for hopefulness regarding a
positive, broad, speedy, and generous reaction of the Government of Chile.