The "Esmeralda" on the BBC



The Esmeralda on the BBC

Background on the Esmeralda
(Amnesty International)


The Esmeralda on the BBC

The "Esmeralda" on the BBC (Instituto Politico Cono Sur) "Whose Justice?" is a series of radio programs on the BBC World Service on the subject of truth and reconciliation in countries emerging from dictatorships. The first of these 25 minute programs deals with Chile, with a special focus on the Naval cadet training vessel, the "Esmeralda." Throughout the European leg of its training cruise, the "Esmeralda" has been the object of protests by human rights advocates, intent on reminding the world that the ship was employed as a torture center immediately following the 1973 military coup.

You can listen to it online over the internet at any time in the week of 7th July at:
(click on BBC World Service - start radio player)

Alternatively, you can listen on short wave radio (SW 15.485 kHz or 12095 kHz or
6195 kHz, depending on location and time of day):

Monday, July 7
10:05 Southern
Central European Time (08.05 GMT) 15:05 19:05

Tuesday, July 8
Sunday, July 13

For more information on the Esmeralda that will not be published in the Chilean press, visit

Also see Complaint for Torture and Death of Priest Miguel Woodward, in this Memoria y Justicia web site.


Background on the "Esmeralda" Detention and Torture Center
(Excerpt from a Report by Amnesty International Chile)

Chile's National Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report, commonly known as the Rettig Report, published in March 1991, names a series of ships the Chilean Navy employed as centers for detention and torture in the period immediately following the military coup headed by former general Augusto Pinochet.

The report mentions the cadet school ship Esmeralda as well as the Lebu and the Maipo, and states, in reference to the Esmeralda, that "a specialized Naval unit took over for the purpose of interrogating persons under arrest [...]. Generally, these interrogations included torture and bad treatment."

In September 1999, when Admiral Jorge Patricio Arancibia Reyes, at that time commander-in-chief of the Navy, denied before Chilean television that Navy ships or installations had been used as torture center, two former prisoners, Antonio Leal, deputy for the Party for Democracy and Ivan Aldoney Vargas, publicly stated that the Chilean Navy had tortured political prisoners aboard the Esmeralda and other ships, as well as in Naval facilties. During a press conference that same month, Antonio Leal described the type of torture inflicted aboard the Esmeralda. He said high voltage electric shocks were applied to the victim's testicles, the victims were suspended upside down by the feet, or sumerged in a bucket of full of water or excrement.

There is no evidence that the ship was employed as torture center after 1973, but the Esmeralda continues to be a symbol of the atrocities endured by political prisoners during Chile's recent history, and specifically, of the practice of torture by representatives of the Chilean States. Over the course of many years of work related to the grave human rights violations committed in Chile during the military regime ( 1973 to 1990), Amnesty International has documented and made public numerous testimonies of people who were tortured on the Esmeralda.

The Naval cadet training ship Esmeralda is a four-mast schooner brig that conducts annual Navy training cruises during which it visits ports throughout the world, as an itinerant ambassador of Chile. From April to October 2003, during its forty-eighth voyage, the Esmeralda will visits ports of Peru, Ecuador, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, United Kingdom, Spain, Brazil and Argentina, returning to Chile in October 2003.

On April 2, 2003, President Ricardo Lagos gave the Esmeralda's crew a farewell speech, in which he said that the ship represented Chile, its history and its traditions. Lagos stated: "A nation proud of what you are doing sets sail together with you. You will arrive with the pride that embodies a country, which is a small star in the southern hemisphere that is respected for its democracy and human rights.

Amnesty International considers that Esmeralda's journeys do not contribute to a strengthening the image of Chile as a nation admired for its respect for human rights. On the contrary, such cruises damage Chile's image, and this will not change until all human rights violations - including torture - committed aboard the ship are fully exposed and the individuals responsible for the crimes are brought to trial.






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