ON THE STATUS OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN CHILE
of “on the spot” Observations in
FACILITIES AND TESTIMONY OF PRISONERS
One of the most important tasks accomplished by the Commission was to
visit a number of detention facilities to examine the conditions under which
persons deprived of liberty were kept, and to conduct interviews with a large
number of such persons. Some of these interviews were tape recorded.
Transcribed or summarized below are the notes prepared by the Commission
members in charge of these visits, with the assistance of Executive Secretary
Dr. Reque and Drs. Gómez and Holzman.
Before the Commission reached Santiago—in some cases the day before—a
number of transfers of groups of detainees or prisoners took place. Thus, for
example, prisoners on Dawson Island had first been transferred to various
detention facilities in Santiago and then to Ritoque, north of Valparaiso.
“Tejas Verdes,” which had been identified in a number of denunciations as a
place where torture took place, was already empty as was “Cerro Chena” and
“Chile Stadium.” In other cases, the Commission was informed that its visit
had caused considerable improvement in the treatment of prisoners.
In most cases, names of persons interrogated have been omitted, either at
their express request or because the Commission does not have written
authorization to proceed otherwise. Information that might make possible easy
identification of the declarants has also been omitted. This information is on
file at the Commission.
It should be noted that individual situations have been mentioned further
on to show the general situation prevailing with regard to those detained for
political reasons. Mention of these situations and statements that have been
gathered or formulated concerning them does not in any way constitute
prejudgment of the individual cases that are now in process before the
Commission as a consequence of the formal denunciations received.
Finally, it should be repeated that everything said in this chapter
reflects the verifications made, or the complaints received, by the Commission
during its visit to the particular facilities, and therefore, does not in any
way, exclude the possibility that circumstances may have changed since the
“Tres Álamos” Detention Facility
This facility was visited on the morning of July 26 by the Chairman and
Vice Chairman of the Commission, Drs. Jiménez de Aréchaga and Dunshee de
Abranches, who were accompanied by Dr. Holzman, a Commission staff member.
“Tres Álamos” is in a suburb of Santiago which is made up of very
modest houses. It is a country estate containing the remains of former
vineyards. The property is approximately one or two hectares in area and
contains buildings, some of them two stories high, that belong, according to
what the Commission was told, to a religious congregation. All of the work
needed to guarantee the security of the detention facilities, such as walls,
barbed wire, etc., have been completed.
Aside from the central buildings, which comprise the offices of higher
level personnel, kitchens and other general services, there are three
longitudinal buildings, made up of adjoining rooms whose doors lead to an open
corridor, as do the bathrooms and toilets. The larger room at the end of the
corridor appears to be intended for common use by the prisoners in the
Each of these buildings has an exit onto a yard, used for recreation.
The first building visited was occupied by around 30 women. We first
noted the interior installations and determined that each room contained between
two and four beds, leaving little free space. There were some magazines on the
beds, and clippings from magazines were attached to the walls. A crib in one
room indicated the presence of a child a few months old. Toilets and baths
appeared to be suitably clean. We did not determine whether hot water was
available in the showers, and the prisoners later denied that there was any.
In the common room, we noted some ten sewing machines which, the staff of
the facility informed us, were used by the prisoners to sew items they sold for
their own profit.
Prisoners who were interested in talking with the Commission's
representatives were asked to go out into the yard or garden. All of them,
without exception, went there. One group surrounded Dr. Abranches and the other
surrounded Dr. Jiménez de Aréchaga, who was assisted by Dr. Holzman operating
a tape recorder.
It was thus possible to talk with almost all of the prisoners and to tape
record what most of them said.
Serious violations of the right to personal integrity were denounced to
us. According to the denunciations, the torture, abuse and cruel and inhuman
treatment were not applied in Tres Álamos, but rather in other facilities to
which the prisoners were periodically transferred for interrogation.
We could see the degree of intense emotional disturbance of the
overwhelming majority of the prisoners. Many of them could not hold back
convulsive weeping and related their experiences without containing their
indignation, even though they could easily be overheard by the authorities of
the establishment and by Colonel Espinoza, who was a few meters away. Others
were to emotionally disturbed to make any statement.
According to the prisoners' statements, some of them were less than 18
In general, the most serious charges made by these prisoners against
those who interrogated them away from “Tres Álamos” are the following:
Every kind of sexual aggression, including the commission of such
aberrant acts as successive rape by several individuals, etc.;
The use of electric current, applied to the most sensitive areas of the
body, successively or simultaneously;
Beatings and torture in the presence of their husbands or companions;
Threats against their parents, children, husbands, or other persons
closely related to them;
The use of drugs of the “pentothal” type, to inhibit any physical or
psychological resistance to sexual aggression or during the interrogations.
Many of the prisoners stated that they were suffering, as a consequence
of the events denounced, serious injuries to their genital organs and intense
psychological disturbances. We heard about such as these: “I want to die! I
can't stand it any longer,” or: “Have a committee of independent
psychiatrists come to examine us! They will be able to verify that we are crazy
or psychologically destroyed!”.
Most of the statements were recorded.
The prisoners also stated that:
What the director of the establishment and the physician had previously
indicated to the effect that they were supplied meat, fish, eggs and fresh
vegetables was absolutely false. Their food—they stated—consisted basically
of lentils and peas or beans. The lack of variety in their diet, they added, was
causing them serious disorders;
There was not hot water in the showers, contrary to what the authorities
The sewing machines had arrived at the establishment only two days before
the Commission's visit, and had not been used by the prisoners;
One of the prisoners, in an advanced state of pregnancy, said she needed
treatment that could not be given in “Tres Álamos”.
It was only at the conclusion of the visit that a woman, who was better
dressed than the others, appeared and stated to the Commission Chairman in an
almost confidential manner, clearly avoiding being heard by the prisoners, that
she had always been treated in a gentlemanly way and that life in the facility
According to the prisoners' statements, no accusation of any kind had
been brought against them, and many of them had not been interrogated by any
other authority than the police. They all denied having committed any crime
whatever or that they had been specifically accused of having committed any
The second building housed only men, and their number was easily equal to
the number of women detained in the other wing.
They were of various social and cultural levels, and of varied
philosophical and political beliefs. Among them were lawyers, engineers,
electronic specialists, dentists, professors, etc., as well as manual laborers.
Only two or three of them were observed to be reticent to communicate
with the Commission members. The others gladly accepted doing so and thanked us
for coming. In general, they asked to be heard separately from the group,
because they believed that there were some individuals among them who were
instructed to spy on them.
One of the first questions the Commission asked the director of the
establishment when it arrived was whether any minor was detained there. This
question was asked because actually information had been received that there
were minors of one or the other sex detained there. We have already indicated
that some of the women said they were 16 or 17 years old. While we were speaking
with the detained men, we were informed that ten minutes before our arrival a
minor, Chacaltana, had been removed from the yard and transferred to the upper
floor of the central building. The Chairman of the Commission immediately
contacted the Director of the establishment and asked him to order the minor,
Chacaltana, to be taken to the offices on the lower floor to be interrogated at
the end of the visit. The Director then admitted that the minor was indeed
there, and gave an unclear explanation to the effect that he expected an order
at any time o release him.
Continuing the visit to the detained men, we received many extensive
testimonials—some of them tape recorded—regarding physical and psychological
torture suffered by most of them. According to their statements, the tortures
consisted in general of:
Application of electric current to sensitive parts of the body,
particularly the genital organs, successively or simultaneously;
Cigarette burns on various parts of the body;
Injuries caused by being hung by the wrists or the ankles;
A mock firing squad firing over the head of the prisoner or beside him;
Threat of abuse of wives, children, or sisters;
Forcing them to witness torture of other prisoners or to hear their
screams while they were tortured;
Simultaneous cuffing with the open hands on both ears to injure the
The Commission could see that one of the prisoners had scars on his upper
and lower limbs that obviously were caused by recent injuries.
As in the case of the women, the prisoners expressed the same criticism
regarding the food supplied to them, which was mostly lentils and beans, without
meat, fish, or fruit. Both the men and the women criticized the doctor of the
Almost unanimously, both men and women indicated in response to our
question as to whether they had filed an appeal of amparo, that the
authorities of the establishment had told them that “they could not” file
such an appeal and that they were forbidden to have lawyers visit them.
In conclusion, three final comments:
Although the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Defense, Justice, and interior
told us that we could freely visit any detention facility, we were not permitted
to go beyond the Director's office at “Tres Álamos” until Colonel Espinoza
was called in by telephone.
Despite our interest in visiting the establishment's third wing, in
which, according to what many prisoners told us, there was a group of persons
who were being repeatedly interrogated and tortured, and whose cries they said
they had heard, it was not possible to overcome the resistance of the
authorities present. The fact that our visit had already been prolonged for
several hours contributed to the situation.
Although we were not permitted to take photographs in the establishment,
an official photographer took many photos during our conversations with the
prisoners, which visibly upset them, because they feared the use that might
subsequently be made of the photographs. We did not receive copies of the
photographs, despite repeated promises that we would be furnished them.
With regard to the places in which—according to the statements
received—prisoners were tortured during interrogation, the prisoners
particularly indicated the building of the investigations center called “La
Patilla”; the premises of Nº 38 Londres Street, also known as the “house of
terror” or the “house of the bells” because the bells of a nearby church
can be heard there; the Military Hospital; and very particularly, the Air Force
Academy, in Santiago.
As examples of the complaints received during our visit to this
establishment, it would be useful to transcribe some of the notes taken by the
Commission members during the visit, eliminating names and other data that would
make it possible to identify the declarants.
PERSONS HELD WITHOUT CHARGE OR TRIAL
Nº 1 Arrested in
mid-October, 1973 and released at the end of December 1973, was again arrested
early in 1974.
Nº 2 Imprisoned
from early May 1974, initially in the Chile Stadium.
Nº 3 Arrested the
last week of April 1974.
Nº 4 Arrested
shortly after the establishment of the new government. His family has been
deprived of economic resources.
Nº 5 Arrested
early in March 1974; was previously in other detention facilities. Reports that
he was a member of the Communist Party, but never took part in subversive
activities. States that he received invitations to teach or work in foreign
universities. Requests intervention of the CIDH to obtain his release, even if
it should be on condition of immediately leaving Chile.
Nº 6 Arrested
last week of February 1974; states he has not taken part in political
activities. Attributes his arrest to the fact that he has signed an appeal for
relief in behalf of a detained person. Denounces the disappearance of Dr. Luiz
Ortiz Quiroga, who was imprisoned in the Tejas Verdes facility.
Nº 7 Arrested in
mid-June 1974 and taken blindfolded to an unknown house. Denounces the detention
of two minors, Carlos Orlando Ayres Moreno (16 years old) and Carlos Soto, but
does not know whether they are now held in the men's building or somewhere else.
Nº 8 Arrested in
Nº 9 Arrested in
1973, was released by the Prosecutor in July 1974, but was again arrested and
transferred successively to two detention centers, together with two other
Nº 10 Detained from October
30, 1973, in the women's House of Correction in Santiago, and transferred June
28, 1974, to the Tres Álamos facility. Requested the Under Secretary of Foreign
Affairs to arrange for her release and allow her to remain in Chile, or if that
could not be done, to make the necessary arrangements for her to leave the
country. Requests CIDH intervention to recover her identification card and leave
the country with the assistance of the National Committee for Aid to Refugees.
Was later released and was able to leave Chile on August 2.
II. PERSONS DENOUNCING
PHYSICAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL DURESS
Nº 1 Accused of
distributing subversive pamphlets, apparently was tortured in the building of Nº
38 Londres Street (shows scars on wrists; says not able to identify the
Nº 2 Arrested
September 1973 and taken to Nº 38 Londres Street (shows no scars, but accuses
policemen names approximately Luicajón, Sapalo and Raúl Romo of alleged
in mid-April 1974 and taken to Nº 38 Londres Street (marks on wrists had
Nº 4 Arrested in
mid-June 1974 and taken to Air War Academy, where says was tortured by a captain
whose name could not identify (still shows visible scars on wrists).
Nº 5 Arrested
late January 1974. Alleges she was sexually abused by three persons at locations
she could not identify because she was blindfolded.
She states she was examined by a physician of the Women’s House of
Correction (Santiago) who signed a certificate attesting to her allegations. She
states that the only reason for her detention and maltreatment she was subjected
to would be the facts that she visited Cuba in 1972, for reasons having nothing
to do with politics. The emotional state of the complainant indicates the need
for medical-psychiatric treatment.
Nº 6 Very young.
States was arrested with other students and accused of subversive propaganda
activities in high school. States was tortured in the house on Londres Street,
in Santiago. Was released after the conclusion of the Commission's visit to
Nº 7 Imprisoned
in the Stadium, and released in mid-June 1974. Was tortured in the house on
Nº 8 Imprisoned
since early October 1973. States was tortured in the house on Londres Street.
Detention Center, Santiago
In the morning of July 26, Ambassador Robert F. Woodward, accompanied by
Dr. Luis Reque, visited the Capuchinos Detention Center, located in downtown
Santiago, some three blocks from the Senate Building. The center has large
dormitories with a capacity of 30 persons, and other dormitories for four or
eight persons. Some of the prisoners have radios. There was a television set.
Everything had obviously been cleaned shortly before the visit. When Mr.
Woodward and Dr. Reque arrived, the prisoners were assembled in an enclosed
yard. There were 167 prisoners; 95 of them were members of the armed forces. Of
the 95, 30 were officers of various ranks.
Since the Commission had received denunciations regarding several serious
cases, Mr. Woodward and Dr. Reque began by requesting that they be permitted to
interview the alleged victims of those acts, whose names they supplied. They
were informed that the prisoners were not at that center.
As examples of the complaints received, a transcription or summary of
some of the notes taken by Mr. Woodward and Dr. Reque are given below, with
Nº 1 Arrested
October 1973; was prisoner of armed forces some ten months (during five of them
remained in a small room where there was not even room to sleep on the floor).
Was transferred to “Capuchinos” in May 1974. States that no charges have
been brought against him, and says that he has done nothing against the military
Nº 2 Was arrested
in late October 1973 under suspicion (false) of taking part in political
meetings. No specific charge has been brought against him. Says that he has done
nothing, nor has spoken with anybody concerning any action against the armed
Says that he was beaten so severely during interrogation that he suffered
complete paralysis of his left side. Has recovered the use of his left side but
still suffers disturbing aftereffects; in particular cannot read for more than
one hour. Was forced to remain standing for two entire days.
Nº 3 Was arrested
early in March 1974, accused of having participated in political meetings. Says
no specific charges were brought against him, that he has never done anything
against the Government, and has had nothing to do with politics. During the
first ten days of his detention, was repeatedly tortured with electrical shocks
over his entire body. During the first five days was continuously blindfolded
Nº 4 Sentenced to
three years in prison for alleged conversations with two other persons in a
“Communist cell”. Stated that he does not even know the other persons.
During interrogations, was beaten and was kept blindfolded for a long period.
Nº 4 Arrested
October 1973. Was released in February 1974. In May 1974, was again arrested.
Was held incommunicado for four days. Has not been tortured. The authorities are
seeking the death sentence in his case. Says he is not in politics. Needs
medical attention, which is not available in the prison.
Nº 5 Says he
belongs to a group of persons who were arrested early in November 1974. Was
tortured with electric shock, beatings with clubs, irons and cuffing with the
palms of the hands on his ears. Was attended by a physician, who found evidence
of torture. Was held five months incommunicado, in a very small cell. Has been
brought to trial. A sentence of life imprisonment is being asked. Ten to twenty
years in prison is being asked for some of the persons detained with him. Was
brought before the war council, but they had to suspend the hearing for lack of
sufficient evidence. Food in this prison is not bad. During the time he was held
incommunicado, the food was bad; he did not see light for five months; was first
in a jail and in January 1974, they put him in a cold basement.
Nº 6 Arrested in
September 1973 and taken to Chilean National Stadium, where he was beaten. Was
hospitalized in the field hospital during the last week of September, 1973 in
the National Stadium. Was interrogated for the second time and again beaten.
Nº 7 Detained
around mid-December 1973 at his work, by civilians. Was tied for two days and
blindfolded. Was tortured with electric shock on the ears and body. One ear is
in rather bad condition, with internal injury, and he may have to be operated
upon. Has signs of torture on the feet and hands. His family had news of him in
January 1974. He was transferred to the Santiago Public Jail in mid-February
1974. He is under psychiatric treatment and takes medicine to sleep and remain
tranquil during the day. It could be seen that he was in a very nervous state.
His wife wanted to go to the Commission's office in the Hotel Crillón, but they
would not let her in. Says that no charges have been brought against him and
that there is no torture in this prison.
Nº 8 The
pertinent part of his taped statement is transcribed. “The treatment we
received has truly surpassed anything imaginable. We have been subjected to the
worst abuse and torture of the most vicious kind. Their marks remain in our
bodies. We went several days without receiving water, remained standing for two,
three days and if we fell because we were tired or weak, we were brought to our
feet by kicks and blows with rifle butts; we were tortured with electric shocks
in the testicles and anus; were hung by the feet and hands; were crucified;
needles were driven under our fingernails; we were injected with drugs; we were
subjected to mock firing squads; and to tortures in the presence of wives and
children, who were also tortured.” “In my case, I was arrested in a raid by
20 carabineros, who pointed their guns at my four-year-old daughter.” “In my
presence, with my hands tied and without a hood, they killed a person who had
his hands tied, and they said to us: 'That's how we are going to treat you if
you do not cooperate.' “We have misgivings about our stay here, after the
“We request that an OAS representative inspect the treatment given to
the 7.000 prisoners throughout Chile, after the Commission withdraws.” “In
the Santiago Public Jail, there is a sick boy with a liver attack. The guard was
notified, but said that nobody died of a liver attack, and they left him without
any medical attention.”
“In our country, up to September 11, 1973, there were no political
“We had information that they are preparing a kind of document or
legislation, which will set forth a number of provisions affecting political
prisoners. What will those provisions be regarding international stipulation on
human rights of the United Nations and the OAS? We request OAS intervention to
make that document more humane and legal, and to make it respect the human
rights of men with a right to defense.”
“We were kept with common criminals in wards 5 and 6.”
“Although we have been prisoners for ten months, they have still not
brought us to trial. When we are taken to the interrogation rooms, they take us
in chains, with hoods, and torture us because we do not say things that are not
true. We have cases of persons who have been taken as political prisoners to
military interrogation centers and have not yet returned.”
“Another very serious point is the situation of our families. Our
children do not have the right to work or receive education, because they have
family members detained. It has reached the point of destruction of the
“We request the Commission to try to eliminate extreme penalties and
the death penalty for charges invented by the Prosecutor.”
“We fear for the lives of two companions: Darío Pavez, who is thought
to have been sent to the Air Force War Academy, and Julio Stuardo, who is
believed to be in Chacabuco.”
“Three youths who were with us in Wards 5 and 6 were found dead the
following day at the foot of a high tension tower. They are accused of trying to
commit criminal assault.”
“General Bachelet died in the jail… for lack of medical treatment and
for lack of air. He had heart trouble. He was taken in chains to the
The death penalty had been requested for Captain Carlos Patricio Carvacho
and Captain Vergara.”
“Previously the International Red Cross Commission was denied access to
Nº 9 The death
penalty has been requested for him. The relevant passages of his statement are
transcribed: “I was arrested in September 1973 and taken to the Air Force War
Academy. I was kept standing for two days. I was interrogated and tortured while
hooded. Electric shock was applied to my genitals, mouth, and ears. I was
beaten, I was tied to a kind of grating; I have marks of torture. I was held
incommunicado for 45 days, with a guard armed with an automatic weapon. One of
the guards accidentally fired a shot and killed one of the prisoners. Later I
was transferred to the Main Ward. One hundred and ten of us are left out of 135,
and we were transferred from there to here twenty days ago. We are all right
here. We have been informed that here, in Capuchinos, we will be sentenced by
the Secretary of the War Council on Tuesday, July 30, at 14:30 hours.”
Nº 10 Detained for six
months. Says that no charges against him. Has been beaten; shows marks; has
three ribs broken as a result of beatings and tortures. Tortures also in hands,
feet, mouth and teeth. Says was tortured in Tejas Verdes and in another place
that he did not recognize, in which he was blindfolded for nine days and was
again tortured with electric shock in the ears, feet and hands, razor cuts on
the fingers, hands and feet. The treatment in the jail was inhuman. He remained
for two months on bread and water, was tortured at nine different locations. One
of them was in the Barco Lebo, in Valparaiso; on one occasion a black liquid was
forced down his nose. It is his family he is worried about. He asked the
Commission to do something for them if possible.
Nº 11 Arrested in September
1973. Has been denied release on bail. Preferred not to speak of tortures. “No
charges against me; however, I am suffering consequences of the state of war. I
do not rely on the judicial authorities, they have denied me the remedy of amparo.
If I were judged by normal laws, there is no charge whatever against me.”
Four prisoners making up a so-called “Committee of Political Prisoners
in Capuchinos” said that many of the 167 political prisoners detained in
Capuchinos did not know the reason for their detention, after 10 months of being
deprived of liberty. Only three of the 167 had been sentenced. The rest, that is
to say 164, had no specific charges brought against them. The slowness of
procedures is almost worse than the lack of judicial proceedings. It appears
that most of the prisoners are suspected of having taken part in “Plan Z”
(which the Committee Chief said never existed).
They stated that the Capuchinos prison is relatively good, at least there
is no maltreatment there.
They stated that torture had been systematic; the use of the hood for
long periods and always during interrogation; blows, kicks, and blows from rifle
butts; being forced to stand for entire days; long periods with nothing to
drink, up to 48 hours, in one case; electric shocks; threats of torture to wives
and children in the presence of the prisoners; hanging by the tied hands, etc.
Wives lose their jobs because their husbands are in prison. This has
happened in 14 cases among the prisoners in Capuchinos. In addition, children of
prisoners are not admitted to the universities.
The head of the “Committee” expressed the hope that a Commission
member might be able to visit the prisons periodically to continue the favorable
effect and reduce the possibility that the good effects might be temporary. He
mentioned that Wards 5 and 6 of the Santiago Public Jail are particularly bad
because of the small size of the cells and the large number of prisoners kept in
the small rooms.
Was visited by Professor Manuel Bianchi, Dr. Genaro Carrió and Dr.
Alvaro Gómez, a Secretariat staff member, on July 26, 1974. The group was
accompanied by Commander Correa, of SENDET.
The Chile Stadium was mentioned in a number of denunciations as a place
where acts of violation of human rights had taken place and as a place where a
large number of persons were detained under the “state of siege.”
Commander Correa reported that this place was no longer used as a
detention center. He added that during the time it functioned as a center,
persons who were brought there were interrogated, in principle, to establish
their status. If there were charges or grounds for suspicion of subversive or
criminal activities, such persons were transferred to other detention centers,
more particularly, the jail on Capuchinos Street, the Investigations Department,
or the Chacabuco camp.
Tejas Verdes Engineering School
The same group visited this place—located 109 kilometers from
Santiago—at 3:00 p.m. on July 26, 1974, and were received by the commanding
officer of the center. He reported that, since late January 1974, no persons had
been detained there.
A visit was made to the sector which according to information supplied by
the officer, had been used to house prisoners. The place consisted of a series
of 30 wooden barracks, divided by a wire fence into 15 for men and 15 for women,
with doors but with no windows. We were informed that the center could house 200
When the Colonel was asked approximately how many persons could be housed
in each barracks, he stated that they were able to house 4 or 5 persons. He
indicated that “technical material” was now kept in the barracks. It was
noted that some of the barracks were empty with their doors open; next to the
exit gate there was a guard tower.
The Commission asked the ad hoc prosecutor, Colonel Rodríguez, to submit
the records of the persons who had been detained in the installation. The
following irregularities were noted in the records:
It had loose interspersed pages, while the numbers of the other pages
were inexplicably consecutive;
There was no appropriate space to indicate the release of detained
persons, so that in various places, without consistent order, the record showed
that in some cases the prisoner had been “released”, but nothing at all was
specified for other prisoners;
It was noted that in a certain part of the records the term “jail”
was used with respect to some prisoners; and when the prosecutor was
interrogated as to the cause of this irregularity, he said that the notation
meant that the persons indicated had been transferred to the San Antonio jail,
in the installation itself, or to the town hall of Tejas Verdes;
It was also noted that, in the registry section for indicating “Reason
for Detention”, the terms “activists”, “propagandists”, and
“socialists” often appeared.
In one case, the reason for the detention indicated in the register was
being the “Chauffeur of Matías Sánchez.” It was noted that Matías Sánchez
had indeed been arrested also on September 22, 1973, but there was no record as
to whether he was released or transferred to another place, etc.
Finally, great irregularity was noted with regard to the registry of
“Entry” and “Exit” of women detained in Tejas Verdes.
According to the register, the last prisoner entered there on January 30,