Human Rights Lawyers Demand Withdrawal of Bill



Sergio Concha Rodriguez
Fabiola Letelier del Solar
Julia Urquieta Olivare

Juan Subercaseaux Amenabar

Santiago, April 18, 2004

As human rights attorneys in Chile, we express concern for the legislative proposal to create incentives for information gathering related to disappeared persons or executed political prisoners whose remains have not been located, known as the Insulza Bill. We state as follows:

1) In Chile, under the military dictatorship of Pinochet, from 1973-1990, horrendous crimes against humanity were committed, including approximately 2100 summary executions, more than 1100 forced disappearances and more than 100,000 persons were tortured, according to official reports, in addition to an estimated 100,000 exiles and persons dismissed from their jobs for political reasons.

2) Such massive and systematic atrocities comprised a political and social genocide. During the Pinochet trial, the high court of Spain described it as the cruelest and most massive in all Chilean history. At the Pinochet extradition hearings, the British Law Lords called them horrendous crimes against humanity. During the span of 16 years (1974 to 1989), the majority of the United Nations General Assembly consistently condemned the human rights crimes committed in Chile.

3) The four different versions of Insulza Bill drafted in the past four months has recommended judicial exemptions, sentence commutations and sentences lowered to three sentencing levels for all authors, accomplices and those who covered-up the crimes, with the exception of the perpetrators who induced the others to commit the crimes, under article 15 N2 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, (which excluded the Army intelligence Ramses Alvarez from culpability in the murder of Tucapel Jimenez). By way of explanation, Minister Insulza stated that "agents of the State who have been convicted only number twenty-six" and "We want more justice" (El Mercurio, 4-11-2004-D 11).

4) Days later (4-14-2004-A3), El Mercurio added that "the incentives for those who provided information helped solve the crime involving the assassination of Orlando Letelier in the United States."

5) As human rights lawyers for many victims, we demand truth. Ten times more convictions could have been issued were it not for the military systematic obstruction of justice in the Carlos Prats, Operation Condor, Eugenio Berrios, and many other cases. Likewise, many other military would be sentenced were it not for the application of the Amnesty Law in over a hundred cases between 1977 to 1997.

6) The advance of justice needs the loyal, democratic cooperation of the military, not pressure for impunity in human rights crimes. Cheyre and the military establishment have pressured for pardons (April 2002), amnesty and application of statutes of limitation (September 2002), an end to the ongoing crime of abduction as legal grounds (July 2003) and now they are pressuring for the rapid passage of the Insulza Bill that is an implicit proposal for incentives to impunity.

7) We consider this bill to be absolutely unconstitutional for the following reasons: a) It interferes in more than 300 cases involving 1300 victims currently in progress in the courts; b) It leaves victims defenseless by granting privileges to the perpetrators (secret witnesses, immediate parole, tremendous sentence reductions, self amnesty, statutes of limitation, pardons and the half-prescription, by failing to expressly invoke international human rights and humanitarian law, that state that crimes against humanity are not subject to amnesties, pardons or statutes of limitation.). In other words, it also infringes upon guarantees of equality under the law, and due process.

8) Perhaps the most perverse aspect of the bill is that it undermines the concept of legal cooperation and state witness, judicial mechanisms utilized to disable terrorist and narco traffic organizations by rewarding informants with a moderate reduction in sentence. These devices are intended to identify the perpetrators, accomplices and persons who cover up crimes not for academic purposed but to punish them. What would happen if paid informants were used to identify criminals, such as terrorists or narco traffickers not in order to punish them but to ensure them impunity through an amnesty, statute of limitation, pardon or half-prescription in addition to lowered sentences and parole? Evidently, it suggests a mockery of law that would taint the entire judicial system.

9) United States did not accept Townley as state witness before demanding that the Letelier-Moffit Case be excluded from the Decree Amnesty Law, to permit the perpetrators to be brought to trial. The application of a self amnesty in that case to grant amnesty to Contreras and Espinoza would have been viewed as a slight against the American people. Chileans have just as much right to a secure life as Americans.

10) The Insulza Bill also calls for secret witnesses or other means of proof to determine the place and date of the disappearance or murder of the victims. The purpose of this measure is not to punish the perpetrators. Rather, it aims to establish the date of death to allow for the invocation of amnesty (from Sept. 11, 1973 to March 10, 1990), and thus overcome the "legal fiction" of continuous abduction.

11) The Insulza Bill does not guarantee the thousands of victims indicated in its first article that amnesty, statutes of limitation or pardons will not be applied. Nor does the bill acknowledge obligations under international human rights treaties or humanitarian law that apply to crimes of genocide committed in Chile.

The Insulza Bill is a concession of impunity for the military class responsible for crimes against humanity in Chile. It thereby incites human rights crimes in the future, is an offense against the Chilean people, and constitutes contempt of principles of international human rights and humanitarian law. For all these reasons, we call for the immediate withdrawal from Congress of the Insulza Bill.

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