Enforced disappearances: exemplary progress and significant challenges in Chile

SANTIAGO, CHILE (21 August 2012) – “The investigations and convictions for enforced disappearances are important achievements of the Chilean State and society in the fight against impunity for grave human rights violations,” said the experts of the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID)* at the end of their mission. “However, important challenges remain,” they added.

“Very few of the convicted perpetrators are effectively serving a sentence, due to the low penalties imposed or other benefits granted,” commented the experts. “The Declaration on the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance requires that acts of enforced disappearances are sanctioned in accordance with the gravity of the crime,” the experts stressed.

Since the return of democracy in Chile, important measures have been taken to ensure truth, justice, reparations and memory in response to the very serious human rights violations committed by the military dictatorship. “The different memorials constitute collective social acknowledgments of the violations and their rejection,” they highlighted. The State should strengthen its responsibility and leadership role to ensure that these initiatives, today mostly led by relatives of the victims, are part of a comprehensive, coherent and permanent State policy,” they added.

“The validity of the 1978 Amnesty Law-Decree represents a hidden danger and should be expressly repealed,” the experts stressed. “Other important challenges that Chile needs to overcome are the slowness of judicial proceedings, the application of military justice to current cases of human rights violations, the absence of an autonomous crime of enforced disappearance and the lack of a national plan to search for disappeared persons,” they noted.

Ms. Jasminka Dzumhur and Mr. Ariel Dulitzky, two of the five members of the Working Group, visited Chile from 13 to 21 August to examine the main initiatives and policies undertaken by Chile on issues related to enforced or involuntary disappearances in the context of past human rights violations, in particular concerning issues related to truth, justice and reparation for the victims. During its mission, the Working Group visited Santiago, Valparaíso and Paine.

The analysis of the information received during and prior to the visit will be considered in the preparation of the report which will be presented to the Human Rights Council at a session in March 2013.

Read the full text of the preliminary observations of the Working Group (in Spanish): http://www.ohchr.org/SP/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=12450&LangID=S

(*) The Working Group is comprised of five independent experts from all regions of the world. The Chair-Rapporteur is Mr. Olivier de Frouville (France) and the other members are Mr. Ariel Dulitzky (Argentina), Ms. Jasminka Dzumhur (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Mr. Osman El-Hajjé (Lebanon), and Mr. Jeremy Sarkin (South Africa).
The Working Group was established by the UN Commission on Human Rights in 1980 to assist families in determining the fate and whereabouts of disappeared relatives. It endeavours to establish a channel of communication between the families and the Governments concerned, to ensure that individual cases are investigated, with the objective of clarifying the whereabouts of persons who, having disappeared, are placed outside the protection of the law. In view of the Working Group's humanitarian mandate, clarification occurs when the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person are clearly established. The Working Group continues to address cases of disappearances until they are resolved. It also provides assistance in the implementation by States of the United Nations Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
For more information on the Working Group, visit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Disappearances/Pages/DisappearancesIndex.aspx

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