OEA/Ser.L/V/II.77 rev.1
doc. 7
17 May 1990
Original:  Spanish




In its last report, presented to the General Assembly at its nineteenth regular session, on developments in the human rights situation in Chile during the year-long monitoring period from September 1988 to September 1989, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights noted improvements in the observance of human rights in the Republic of Chile, beginning with the holding of the plebiscite on October 5, 1988.  The results of that plebiscite, in which the Chilean electorate was given the option of voting either YES, in favor of Government, or NO, in favor of the opposition, were 54.7% NO and 43.1% YES.  This opposition victory was followed by a lengthy debate on amendments to be introduced into the Constitution, which led to another plebiscite, on July 30, 2989, and then in accordance with constitutional provisions, to the calling of general elections for President of the Republic and members of congress.


During the period covered by this report, the Commission has continued its careful monitoring of the process in Chile and considers that, up until the change of Government, the human rights situation continued to make relative progress, as noted by the IACHR in its last report to the General Assembly.


In connection with the situation of political rights, since the period covered by this report was an important period of transition and political change, in which the Republic of Chile did away with the military regime and fully reinstated a representative and constitutional democratic system of government, the Commission feels that it must highlight this fact by citing some of the important events that occurred during this process of change.


On July 12, 1989, the Independent Democratic Union Party (Partido Unión Democrática Independiente – UDI) put up as candidate for Presidente Hernán Buchi Buc, who had been Minister of the treasury under General Augusto Pinochet.  When Sergio Onofre Jarpa of the National Renewal Party (Partido de Reonvación Nacional – PPARENA) declined the nomination, he gave his support to Mr. Buchi.


The candidacy of businessman Francisco Javier Errázuriz was announced on the same day and then, on July 16, Christian Democrat leader and candidate Patricio Aylwin formally launched his campaign.  As the opposition candidate, he had the support of the Coalition of parties for democracy (Concentración de Partidos por la Democracia – CPPD), a coalition of 17 right-wing, center, and moderate left-wing parties and movements opposed to the military government.  The coalition agreed on an electoral program with a single slate of parliamentary candidates.


The three priority tasks that the Christian Democrat candidate promised to carry out, if elected, were to: democratize the country’s institutions after 16 years of military rule, establish justice with regard to human rights and adopt an economic and social policy that would in addition to promoting development, put and to cases of injustice and inequality.


On October 4, 1989, one year after the plebiscite in which the single candidacy of General Augusto Pinochet for a new eight-year presidential term was rejected, some 10 explosions were set off in the capital, which caused, among other damages, blackouts in several cities.  Demonstrations against the military Government were also held, and barricades were set up to block automobile traffic in some popular neighborhoods.  In addition, just two weeks before the elections, on the occasion of General Pinochet's birthday, some dynamite blasts were set off.


The period for registration of presidential and congressional candidates ended on August 11, 1989.  After an electoral campaign that lasted almost five months, general elections were held on December 14, 1989, the first to be held in 19 years.  Finally there were three candidates for the presidency and 530 for the 158 seats in the National Congress-. 38 senate and 120 deputy seats.  Of the total of 7,552,537 registered voters and 6,641,507 votes counted. equivalent to 83% of the electorate, the official count of valid votes casts, excluding blank and invalid ballots, was as follows:  Patricio Aylwin, 3,577,669 votes, or 55.2%; Hernán Buchi, 1,901,668 votes, or 29.4%; and Franciso Javier Errázuriz, 998,783 votes, or 15.4%.


Notwithstanding Patricio Aylwin's victory, which gave him an electoral majority in both houses, he will not have a majority in the Senate since, in addition to the 38 senators elected, under the new Constitution there will be eight more senators appointed by President Pinochet, who will also be a senator-for-life.  This might well make it possible for him to control the Senate, which has more powers in Chile than the Chamber of Deputies.  The new democratic and constitutional Government will have to face the fact that General Augusto Pinochet is not retiring but will continue to serve as commander-in-chief of the Chilean Army.


Later, the Government Military Junta, which has exercised legislative power in Chile since 1953, passed a new constitutional organizational law on the Armed Forces and on the Carabineros as well as an unpublished law approved the dissolution of the National Information Center (CNI) or political secret police. It appears that those laws were adopted after an agreement was reached between the military regime and the representatives of President-elect Patricio Aylwin.


On January 18, 1990, the Constitutional Tribunal, made up of seven members appointed by the military Government, established March 11 as the date for the new president to take office instead of March 14 as established by the Constitution, which stipulates that it is to be 90 days after the election; ratified the appointments of senators made by General Pinochet; and decided that they would join those elected by popular vote, contrary to the opposition position that the power set forth in the Constitution to appoint senators did not authorize General Pinochet's present regime to do so; moreover it decided that the power of the Chamber of Deputies to investigate the acts of public officials would be in effect only for those acts committed after March 11, which stripped the Chamber of Deputies of the power to investigate acts committed by the military regime.  After these laws were passed, the elected civilian leaders who were about to take office criticized what was referred to as the "wave of laws and decrees" adopted in haste at the last minute by General Pinochet's regime.


Pursuant to the amnesty law decreed by the military regime, the military courts dismissed the actions instituted to clarify the situation of more than 130 missing detainees, without applying any sanctions.


As soon as he took office, President Aylwin had to deal with acts of violence that occurred, including the hunger strike staged by a group of political prisoners demanding that they be released within three months.  When the present Government came to power, there were almost 500 political prisoners charged by the military regime, of which President Aylwin pardoned 43 almost immediately.    Confronted by this show of force, President Aylwin said that he would not tolerate any attempts to impose deadlines on him.  The problem took on greater dimensions when it was later learned that almost 50 political prisoners in various parts of the country were on a hunger strike to call for their immediate release, without any exceptions or distinctions between prisoners of conscience and those charged with violent crimes.


Another incident that surprised public opinion was the attack committed by an armed commando of the Lautaro Popular Rebel Forces against a branch of the State Bank (Banco del Estado) in Santiago.   The attackers, five men carrying machine guns and revolvers, fled by car after robbing 10,000,000 pesos, approximately 33,000 U.S. dollars.


Another serious incident affected the new government during the third week of March.   General Gustavo Leigh, the retired commander-in-chief of the Chilean Air Force, received five bullet wounds in an assassination attempt perpetrated by two individuals who forcibly entered his real estate off ices in Santiago. : The former 69-year-old officer was hit in the face, chest and arms, which caused a ruptured eye, chest wounds and arm fractures.  Subsequently, a statement was released by a leader of the Movement of the Revolutionary Left (Movimiento de lzquierda Revolucionario - MIR) in favor of the overthrow of President Aylwin's Government and the development of armed struggle.  President Aylwin has downplayed the importance of these statements and has time and again spoken out categorically against all forms of violence.


Some of the measures adopted by the new Government to restore a democratic system in which human rights are safeguarded and fully observed and persons who violate them are duly punished were immediately announced by the President in the speech he made in the National Stadium.


Because of the situation caused by the political prisoners' hunger strike and of the overcrowding in Chile's prisons, the new Government studied and introduced a bill to be considered as a matter of the greatest urgency.


On April 25, the Chamber of Deputies passed the Government's bill on a general pardon, which could benefit almost 3,000 of the almost 24,000 prisoners in Chile's prisons.  The pardon excludes those found guilty of abduction, armed robbery, murder, and drunk driving, as well as those convicted under the state security, antiterrorist and arms control laws. However, that bill, which passed by a majority, has been objected to by representatives of the National Renewal and Independent Democratic Union parties, who criticized that the pardon could be granted to those convicted of rape, incest, abortion, and infanticide.


Accordingly, both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate have set up human rights committees, which are now involved in clarifying their functions, discussing such issues as the power of Congress to grant the state the authority to work toward the objectives established by the international system in the area of human rights and also to examine the resolve of the Executive to meet these requirements.  One of the documents drawn up in the upper chamber defines five specific functions of the congress in the defense of human rights:  legislation, supervision, democratization, mediation, and the monitoring and promotion of human rights.


With regard to the present Government's approach to economic and social rights, it is interesting to cite informally some of the ideas advanced in the first statement made by Chile's new ambassador to the United Nations, in that multinational forum, who asked that the domestic policy being followed in his country be echoed in the international sphere:


"Major macroeconomic balances are understandably being pursued, because without them development is not possible.  However, we do not find the same concern for establishing major social balances which are just as necessary for the stability of our societies.  Thus today we see a growing humanization of policy and a growing dehumanization of the economy.  The free-market economy has proved to be more efficient than centrally planned economies in organizing the productive process, promoting entrepreneurial and technological creativity and increasing international trade, but it is running into serious problems in satisfying the just social demands of our times.  The economic security of some countries cannot be based on the insecurity of the rest.  The world economy must respond increasingly to a more human view in which the old aspiration of greater international social justice will gradually become a reality."


On April 24, President Aylwin's Government issued a decree on the establishment of the "National Committee for Truth and Reconciliation," which, because of its importance and its impact on this historic moment in the country, deserves to be duly underscored by citing, in part, the explanation given by the President himself on the Committee's purposes and objectives.  In his inaugural address delivered on March 12 in the National Stadium of Santiago, he stated the following:


"At that time I said and I now repeat:  The moral conscience of the nation is demanding that the truth be told on the disappearance of persons, the horrendous crimes and other serious human rights violations that took place under the dictatorship.  We must address this sensitive matter by combining the virtues of justice and caution.  Once responsibility for those acts has been determined, it will be time to forgive.


"On that occasion I went on to say:  As part of this necessary pursuit of justice we must avoid the risk of wanting to relive other times, of recasting the quarrels of the past and of becoming indefinitely embroiled in investigations, recriminations and witch-hunts that detract us from our commitments to the future.  I consider myself duty-bound not to allow time to slip away as we look toward the past.  Chile's spiritual health obliges us to find ways to undertake these tasks of moral upgrading within a reasonable period so that, sooner rather than later, the time will come when, having been reconciled, we can all face the future with confidence and join forces in the efforts the country requires of us.


"To perform these tasks of moral upgrading, we must squarely address at least three issues, which, given their special importance, cannot be neglected.


a.       The situation of detainees who have disappeared, been executed or been tortured to death, as well as abductions and cases of physical assault committed for political reasons;


b.       The situation of persons in exile; and


c.       The situation of the so-called ‘political prisoners.’


"With regard to the last item, in addition to the, pardons I granted as soon as I took office and those that I might decide on in the future in specific cases I consider just, my Government has proposed to the National Congress a set of bills on the eradication of the death penalty and on amendments to the antiterrorist law, the arms control law, the law an internal state security, and the Codes of Military Justice and Criminal Procedure, whose purpose is to correct in the future excesses in the existing legislation on these matters. Adoption of these bills will make it possible to speed tip the holding of trials and to swiftly mete out justice to those currently being prosecuted.


"With regard to these bills, as always the Government is prepared to consider and accept any observations and suggestions intended to improve on them, as long as they do not depart from their two basic objectives, which are, first, to duly classify criminal offenses and establish fair guidelines for penalties and judicial procedures, without any excesses or unjust discrimination; and, second, to end the indefinite prolongation of the cases of those now on trial, who have often been deprived of the guarantees of due process.  It is morally repugnant and a mockery of justice to prolong preventive detention for many years–sometimes five or more–only to finally give the defendant a lesser term or, as has occurred in many cases, to release him for want of evidence.


"That leaves the pressing problem of violations of human rights and other acts of criminal violence that have taken such a high toll in victims and suffering in recent years.  They remain an open wound on the national soul, which cannot be ignored.  Nor will it heal as a result of efforts to forget it.  These acts have seriously tarnished our historical image as a law-abiding country, which we must vindicate before the international community.  To turn a blind eye to what has happened or to ignore it as if nothing has occurred would be to perpetuate a constant source of pain, division, hatred and violence within our society.  Only by clarifying the truth and seeking justice will we be able to establish the essential moral climate necessary for reconciliation and peace.


"We are all well aware that bringing someone to trial for an alleged criminal act is the role of the courts of justice.  My Government is firmly resolved to cooperate with the courts to the extent possible to enable them to fully play their role in determining individual responsibility in every case that has or will come before them.  Given the features of judicial proceedings, which are necessarily defined in terms of each case and are often too lengthy, one cannot reasonably expect the whole truth about what happened to be learned within a reasonable period of time merely by following those procedures.


"Moreover, it is obvious that delays in clarifying the truth disrupt community life and conspire against the desire of Chileans for peaceful reconciliation.  Under these circumstances, a different course of action must be sought, which, without getting into the particulars of each case under the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts, will allow the Chilean people to establish a serious, well-founded collective idea of what actually took place in this important sphere.


“It is the duty of every government body to respect and promote the natural rights embodied in the Constitution and in existing international treaties signed by Chile.  That duty is especially incumbent on the President of the Republic, in his capacity as head of the Government and of the national administration and as the person responsible for promoting the nation’s well-being.


"Given these circumstances, after listening to the opinions of representatives of the most important human rights organizations and of eminent persons in the national legal and political spheres and after some serious soul-searching, I have decided to set up the 'Committee for Truth and Reconciliation' on the topic of human rights, made up of individuals of the most impeccable moral character, to focus on the essential task of preparing a report that will in a brief period of time–six to nine months–establish the most complete picture possible of the most serious human rights violations committed between September 11, 1978 and March 11, 1990, whether in Chile or abroad, when the acts committed abroad have to do with the Chilean State or with Chilean political life.


“With a view to defining the Committee’s work and allowing it to perform its task within the aforementioned period, serious violations of human rights will be understood to be cases of detainees who have disappeared, been executed or been tortured to death, in which the State seems to bear some moral responsibility because of acts of its agents or people working for it, as well as abductions and acts of physical assault committed by individuals on political pretexts.  It will be the function of the Committee:


a.       To establish the most complete picture possible of the serious acts in question, their background and the circumstances surrounding them;


b.       To identify their victims and establish their whereabouts;


c.       To recommend measures it considers just for relief or recovery;


d.       To recommend legal and administrative measures that, in its opinion, should be adopted to obstruct or prevent the commission of similar acts.


“In no case will the Committee assume jurisdictional functions that are within the courts’ purview or interfere in cases pending before the courts.  It may therefore not determine whether individuals are responsible, under the law, for acts that it has learned about.  If in the course of its work the Committee receives background information on acts that may be crimes, it will, confidentially and without delay, so inform the appropriate court.


“In order to discharge its mission, the Committee will receive the background information provided to it by those involved, gather and evaluate all the information supplied to it by human rights organizations and conduct any investigations and take any steps necessary to ascertain the truth.   Government officials and offices must provide it, within the sphere of their respective powers, with any assistance the Committee requests.


"The proceedings of the Committee will be private.  It is not meant to be a public forum to air charges and rekindle passions, but a serious and responsible body for shedding light on the truth and paving the way to reconciliation.  When it completes it work, the Committee will submit to the President of the Republic a public report in which, on the basis of the background materials it collected, it expresses the conclusions it has reached based an the sound judgment and conscience of its members ... .  Having seen the report and taking into account the suggestions made by the Committee, the branches of Government may adopt, each within its sphere of competence, the measures they deem most prudent to achieve justice and reconciliation."


The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights wishes to indicate its decided support for the measure adopted by the Government of Chile and to express its backing of the important tasks assigned to the National Commission for Truth and Reconciliation that they should lead to a greater respect for human rights in Chile.  The Inter-American Commission must also underscore its satisfaction on the re-establishment of representative democracy in Chile, the result of efforts and democratic convictions of its people, and offers its cooperation to the new Government, in any way it should deem useful, within the scope of the Commission's Rules of Procedure. 

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