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  • There are still calls for justice for the detained and disappeared.

    There are still calls for justice for the detained and disappeared. | Photo: Reuters

Published 16 January 2017

While Chile is formally able to comply with human rights standards, a lack of transparency about dictatorship-era crimes continues to hinder justice.

Torture still remains a problem in Chile, along with a lack of transparency that prevents justice for the victims of crimes committed under General Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship, according to Undersecretary of Human Rights Lorena Fries.

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"In Chile, torture happens today, but not in the systematic or institutionalized way like during the dictatorship," Fries told EFE news agency.

She added that in the country "there remains much (work) to do with the problem of torture, both in relation to the past and the present."

While the country is formally able to comply with international human rights standards, the lack of truth and information about dictatorship-era crimes continues to hinder true justice.

Fries will, therefore, be developing and implementing a National Human Rights Plan that will cover the next four years and will create a space where all parties can safely engage in a dialogue aimed at reconciliation. The plan will also investigate relations to the violations committed during the Pinochet dictatorship, which began in 1973 with the coup that deposed elected President Salvador Allende and ended in 1990 after a national plebiscite rejected Pinochet's continued rule.

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The plan, Fries argued, is a necessary first step so that Chilean courts of justice can understand the real nature and details of each case it looks into. With more than 40,000 victims under Pinochet’s military dictatorship — including at least 3,000 dead or missing — these details are vital to the pursuit of justice.

Chile’s Undersecretariat for Human Rights is a recently-created body that — among other tasks — seeks to lift the veil of institutional secrecy under which the testimonials and documentation of subjects of investigation are shrouded.

This would include putting an end to the amnesty law that Pinochet took advantage of after leaving power, despite the human rights violations he inflicted on the country for nearly two decades. His arrest in 1998 placed Chile on the global map as a reference point in the application of international criminal law.

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