REPORT ON THE SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN CHILE
Constitutional Act Nş 3 on Constitutional Rights and Duties was enacted
by virtue of Decree-Law Nş 1552, of September 11, 1976. The text itself is a
formal recognition of the majority of the fundamental rights and guarantees of
the human person. Nevertheless, the communications the Commission has received
regarding alleged violations of fundamental human rights leave room for
reasonable doubt as to actual observance of the standards contained in that
decree; this makes it necessary to continue to monitor closely full and
effective compliance with those standards.
Constitutional Act Nş 4, enacted by Decree-Law Nş 1553, of September
11, 1976, changes the states of emergency, with their respective degrees. Viewed
in its formal aspect, this gives the impression of improvement over the previous
situation. However, the modifications do not change the fact that special laws
still have predominance over the permanent and regular juridical institutions.
Decree-Law Nş 1319 of December 31, 1976, enacted Constitutional Act Nş
1, which established the Council of State as the Highest Consulting Body to the
President of the Republic on matters of government and civil administration.
Decree-Law Nş 1458 of May 31, 1976, establishes the basic standards for
operation of this Council. According to the preamble of the Decree establishing
the Council of State, the latter serves to gradually put into effect those
organic precepts that respond to developments in Chile and serve as the basis
for the fundamental and ultimate institutional framework of the Republic.
However, the Council of State has no administrative powers or functions
whatever, as it merely issues opinions or conclusions which are not binding upon
the Government; nor has it, as in other countries, the rank of an administrative
tribunal. Therefore, establishment of the Council of State has no positive
repercussions on the improvement of the situation of human rights in Chile,
since the objectives of the Council must be attained without impairing the
prerogatives and decision-making power of the President of the Republic.
Although the number of denunciations of homicides imputed to Chilean
authorities through an abuse of power has declined, in the cases being processed
in the IACHR, the Government, while not denying the events, contends that the
action taken by the authorities has been justified, but does not provide the
evidence needed to make a judgment on the responsibility for those deaths, which
the claimants impute to the Chilean authorities.
The Commission continued to receive denunciations with regard to
individuals detained, missing or presumed dead. The number of denunciations in
this category has also declined when compared with the periods covered by the
previous reports. But, as of the beginning of this year, 415 cases of
disappearances had been recorded.
During the period covered in this report the Commission did not receive
sufficient information and documentation, requested from the Government of
Chile, to enable it to form a well-founded judgment on the serious denunciations
regarding summary executions.
It continues to be difficult to secure adequate data on violations of the
right to physical liberty in Chile. The difficulties rest with the methods used
by the Chilean security forces and the inefficacy of Legal remedies and
essential procedural guarantees. This problem is exacerbated by the incomplete
replies the Government of Chile provides to the questionnaires the Commission
has sent to it.
Trustworthy sources support the denunciations received by the Commission
to the effect that detainees are held incommunicado for lengthy periods of time.
The security services generally deny knowledge of the arrest of the individual
in question. The denial is maintained even when the arrest has taken place in
the presence of many witnesses.
The expulsion of Chilean citizens is also a cause for serious concern,
inasmuch as individual liberty includes the individual's right to remain in his
country. When exile is offered as an alternative to imprisonment in cases where
an individual has been found guilty of a serious crime, as provided by Decree
Law Nş 1504 of April 30, 1975, which empowers military courts to change an
individual's punishment to exile, the hardship of exile is mitigated, although
even so it is still a serious limitation on the right of citizens to physical
It is important to point out the fact that two of the five Chilean
lawyers that provided important information on the situation of human rights in
Chile were expelled under circumstances that make it reasonable to assume that
the motive for the expulsion was precisely the fact that they had provided such
information. This would be to disregard Resolution 243 in which the Government
of Chile was asked to provide appropriate guarantees to persons or
institutions that may provide information, testimony, or other types of
As already mentioned above, one of the most serious matters involving
Chile is the question of individuals who disappear after having been
detained. While it appears that since the Second Report, the number of arrests
and disappearances has declined, a substantial number still occur. Furthermore,
the percentage of disappearances among individuals detained has increased over
the figures contained in the Second Report.
One event that alleviated the serious situation described in the
preceding paragraphs was the Chilean government's decision to release more than
300 detainees. This gave rise to hopes that the serious situation existing with
regard to the physical liberty of individuals in Chile may yet be normalized.
Of special concern to the Commission are the repeated denunciations of
violations of the right to personal integrity. According to information provided
by the Government in answering a questionnaire sent by the Commission, only two
individuals have been brought to trial for these acts, and an inquiry into
charges filed by one prisoner has been launched.
The Commission wishes to point out that in the last three years, the
pertinent parts of very concrete denunciations of physical and psychological
duress against individuals deprived of their freedom, indicating both time and
place, have been transmitted to the Government of Chile; and yet, to date, the
Commission has no knowledge as to whether proceedings have been opened against
those allegedly responsible for these acts or as to whether any individual has
been convicted for these crimes.
Despite the fact that Constitutional Act Nş 3 of September 13, 1976,
upholds the right to the integrity of the individual and prohibits application
of an y illegitimate force, the fact is that the Government of Chile has not
implemented an effective policy against torture that requires, above all, that
those responsible be brought to trial and punished.
Under the state of emergency still in effect, the rights to justice and
due process are subject to serious limitations. This has an effect upon the
efficacy of the remedies of habeas corpus and amparo, and in
general the rights upheld in Articles XVIII and XXVI of the American Declaration
of the Rights and Duties of Man.
Constitutional Act Nş 3 contains certain provisions that refer to these
rights. Formally speaking at least, these show progress in this area. However,
in view of the lack of information, the Commission is unable to determine to
what extent these standards are in fact observed.
There are serious limitations on freedom of expression and of
information. Decree}Law Nş 1281, which allows very tight control over mass
communication media, continues in force. A radio station was closed and others
have been pressured by the authorities.
The situation with regard to political rights is essentially the same as
it was when the First Report was written. During the period covered in this
report, no step has been taken to reestablish the rights provided for in
Articles XX and XXII of the American Declaration.
The Commission notes with grave concern the Chilean government's decision
to take away the citizenship of a number of citizens by birth, who have been
accused of crimes against the interests of the State from abroad.
By virtue of the legal provisions in force, the Comptroller General of
the Republic does not at present play an effective role as a guardian of the law
and therefore the fundamental rights of the citizenry.