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The Valech Report (officially The National Commission on Political Imprisonment and Torture Report) was a study that detailed abuses committed in Chile between 1973 and 1990 by agents of Augusto Pinochet's military regime. The first part of the report was published on November 29, 2004 and detailed the results of a six month investigation. A second part was released on June 1, 2005. Testimony has been classified, and will be kept secret for the next 50 years. Therefore, they cannot be used in trials concerning human rights violations, in contrast to the "Archives of Terror" concerning Paraguay and Operation Condor. Associations of ex-political prisoners have been denied access to the testimony.

The report was prepared at the request of President Ricardo Lagos by the eight-member National Commission on Political Imprisonment and Torture headed by Bishop Sergio Valech and it was made public via the Internet. The commission included María Luisa Sepúlveda (executive vice president), lawyers Miguel Luis Amunátegui, Luciano Fouillioux, José Antonio Gómez (PRSD president), Lucas Sierra, Álvaro Varela and psychologist Elizabeth Lira. It did not include any representative of the victims or members of the associations of ex-political prisoners.

The initial report was based on testimony given to the commission by 35,868 people, of which 27,255 were regarded as legitimate. A further 8,000 cases were studied over the next six months. The second report included 1,204 new cases, 88 of which were children younger than 12 years old, including unborn children, which makes a total of 28,459 cases. United Nations' definition of torture, counts about 400,000 victims of torture, but there is no clear source on how this estimation was reached[citation needed]). Most of those new cases of children had not been included in the first report because their parents were either executed political prisoners or among the "disappeared" detainees and there were no confirming witnesses. About two-thirds of the cases of abuse that were recognized by the commission took place during 1973.

The state provided lifelong monetary compensation (a pension of about US$215) to the victims as well as health benefits.

Contents

Criticism

According to the associations of ex-political prisoners, the commission used a different definition of torture than the one accepted by the United Nations. The associations say that testimony was accepted under the following conditions:

  • Detention must have been of more than five days (in 1986, in Santiago de Chile, 120,000 people were detained by the armed forces. Of those 120,000, 24,000 were detained by Carabineros (the Chilean police force) for a duration of four days and a half). However, the Commission's requirement was not about time but about politically motivated detention or torture. In those cases where evidence of either was found, even if the period of detention was of few days, the testimonies were accepted (see article 1, paragraph 2 of Supreme Decree 1,040 of 2003, that created the Commission and established its mandate [1]).
  • Detention must have been in one of the 1,200 official detention and torture centers listed by the Commission (including Villa Grimaldi, Colonia Dignidad, Víctor Jara Stadium or Esmeralda floating center), excluding all cases of torture in the streets or in vehicles (starting in the 1980s, the CNI, which succeeded DINA, no longer brought victims to detention centers; thus, say the associations, the fact that about two-thirds of the cases of abuse that were approved by the commission took place during 1973). The case of Carmen Gloria Quintana, who was burnt alive in the middle of the 1980s, was not recognized, following this definition of torture. This allegation is erroneous. There was no official list of detention centers where victims had to have been detain for their cases to be recognized. The list established by the Commission was the product of the testimonies received (despite the fact that previous lists of detention centers included most places Memoriaviva). The difficulty of accepting testimonies of people detained in vehicles or tortured on the street was of finding enough evidence of them. Those cases where evidence was found of people detained and tortured in police buses or other vehicles were accepted. Ms. Quintana contacted the Commission but didn't present her testimony to it.
  • Detention must not have taken place in another country but in Chile.

They also underlined the fact that the commission worked for only six months, and with very little publicity, despite the United Nations' demand to accept testimonies for a longer period. In the countryside, in some cases victims who managed to be informed had to give testimony to local civil servants that were part of the local governments when they were detained and tortured. When the Commission new about this situation demanded the exclusion of those officers of the process and sent new teams to those areas. The Commission coordinated its work with all regional and national organizations of former political prisoners and human rights organizations to help contacting their members and other people to give testimony. Advertisements were broad cast in national and local radios and TV stations and published in national and local newspaper [Commission's report pages 48 to 51,at http://www.comisiontortura.cl/filesapp/03_cap_ii.pdf]. The number of testimonies received is consistent with the geographic distribution of inhabitants in the capital city and the provinces [Commission's report pages 69 and 70, at http://www.comisiontortura.cl/filesapp/03_cap_ii.pdf]. The commission worked only during office hours, forcing victims to ask their employer for permission to testify - which, in Chile's present day society, is not always an easy thing to do... No sufficient psychological assistance was provided to the victims, who had to relive horrible experiences, some of them suffering flashbacks, except of referring statement givers to the Comprehensive Health Care Reparations Program (PRAIS [2]) and some specialized mental health care NGOs that weren't able to satisfy all the demand (giving sense to the concept of "re-victimization"). Ex-political prisoners said that testimony from minors under 18 years old were refused, because it was impossible for them to recall exactly all the details of the place and time where they had been tortured (children, some of them five years old, and adolescents had been tortured by the dictatorship).

Sixty percent of the ex-political prisoners were unemployed for at least two years, following studies made by ex-political prisoners' associations. Their life expectancy is only of 60 to 65 years. Switzerland and Argentina have recently refused to extradite two of them to Chile, on the grounds that they might be subject to "mistreatments" in Chile. Others are still confined in high security quarters in Chilean prisons.[citation needed]

Excerpts

Excerpts from the report as translated by The Miami Herald: [3].

Consciously or unconsciously, a conspiracy of silence about the torture spread slowly through the country. Political prison and torture constituted a state policy during the military regime, defined and promoted by the political authorities of the period which mobilized personnel and resources of various public organizations and issued decrees and laws that protected such repressive behavior. And this had the support, explicit sometimes but almost always implicit, of the only power that was not a member of that regime: the judiciary.
[More than 18,000 of the 35,868 respondents] said they were detained between September and December 1973. During that period, torture was practiced by members of the Armed Forces and Carabineros [paramilitary police] in what became a generalized practice on a national scale.
[More than 5,266 respondents] were political prisoners detained between January 1974 and August 1977, when new modalities of detention and torture were created. By June 1974, the DINA [Directorate of National Intelligence] was granted full legal recognition and its own budget.
[Almost 4,000 respondents] were persons detained for political motives between August 1977 and March 1990. The final period of the repressive process was distinguished by the activities of the CNI [National Information Center.] In 3,059 cases, the detainees were kept in CNI facilities.
As the citizenry rearticulated itself politically, the Investigations Department Police [police detectives] and Carabineros intervened again most actively in the tasks of coercion, detaining (for shorter periods) and torturing (with the usual methods) either on their own or placing oppositionists at the disposal of the CNI, military or civilian tribunals for processing.
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Methods of torture

The methods of torture described by witnesses before this Commission included:
  • Repeated beatings
  • Deliberate corporal lesions
  • Bodily hangings [suspensions]
  • Forced positions
  • Application of electricity
  • Threats
  • Mock execution by firing squad
  • Humiliation
  • Stripping down to nakedness
  • Sexual aggression and violence
  • Witnessing and listening to torture committed on others
  • Russian roulette
  • Witnessing the execution of other detainees
  • Confinement in subhuman conditions
  • Deliberate privation of means of existence
  • Sleep deprivation or interruption
  • Asphyxia
  • Exposure to extreme temperatures

Sexual violence against women

This Commission heard testimony from 3,399 women, almost all of whom said they were the object of sexual violence; 316 said they were raped. Of the latter, 229 were detained while pregnant. Because of the torture they suffered, 20 of them aborted and 15 gave birth while in prison. Thirteen women said they were made pregnant by their captors; six of those pregnancies came to term.
Utilized as places of detention and interrogation were the most diverse facilities: Armed Forces bases, police precinct houses, ships, city halls, stadiums, prison camps, jails and secret prisons operated by the DINA and CNI.
Practically everyone who testified before the Commission stated that they were detained with extreme violence, some in front of their children, in the middle of the night, with shouts, blows and threats of death made to the detainee and other family members, creating an atmosphere of terror and anguish.
Although prison conditions varied, detainees generally slept on the floor, without a mattress or blanket; they were deprived of food and water or were given scant and awful food. They lived in crowded and unhealthy conditions, without access to toilets or baths, and were subjected to constant humiliation and abuses of power.
[At DINA facilities] daily life was characterized by insalubrious physical conditions and constant psychological pressure on the prisoners, who were kept tied up, blindfolded and in total uncertainty. At all times, they were exposed to brutal interrogations.
Of the total number of witnesses, 23,856 were men; 3,399 were women. Of the younger detainees, 766 were between 16 and 17 years old; 226 were between 13 and 15, and 88 were 12 years old and younger.
In addition to inflicting physical trauma, the torture left psychological consequences.
Most witnesses described behavioral, emotional and psychosocial effects. Many said they had felt — and still feel — insecure and fearful, humiliated, ashamed and guilty; depressed, anxiety-ridden and hopeless. Some persons mentioned alterations in their concentration and memory; others cited conflicts, crises and breakups within their families, as well as conjugal problems. They also mentioned the loss of reference groups and social networks. Most victims mentioned sleep disturbances and chronic insomnia, as well as behavioral inhibitions, phobias and fears.

See also

References

External links


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