Justice Too Little Too Late for Thousands

By Codepu Valdivia

Approximately 15,000 in Santiago and 200 just in the Province of Valdivia are the total cases the National Commission on Political Imprisonment and Torture has received since embarking on its mission in early December 2003. The process has been slow and ineffective, considering the immense volume of persons who were imprisoned during the dictatorship and subjected to torture is unlikely to be confirmed with reasonable certainty. With the information gathering stage of the Commission slated to conclude May 11, the time factor favors impunity. So do the limited publicity and resources to reach provinces beyond Santiago, such as rural and mountainous areas of the country.

Headed by Msgr. Sergio Valech, the Commission was created as the direct result of the fight against impunity waged by former political prisoners, and the broad-based Ethics Committee against Torture in particular, to win recognition of their suffering as human rights violations. However, thousands of surviving victims of the dictatorship including peasants, laborers, professionals and party members have had little access to information and none to the publicity sent via Internet.

A Few Suggestions

1. The Commission on Political Imprisonment and Torture was created by the government to gather information about persons who were political prisoners or victims of torture between September 1973 and March 1990.

2. The Commission on Political Imprisonment and Torture is a government commission. Its members and staff have been appointed by the government. Neither human rights organizations nor political parties participate as members.

3. All persons who were political prisoners and suffered any kind of torture during the military dictatorship may present their cases to the Commission.

Outside the Santiago Metropolitan Region, the process is conducted by the Provincial Governments, which have designated offices with staff to attend, inform, fill out and receive registration forms. Chilean embassies and consulates have this mission abroad.


The specific reparation measures the Commission will carry out have not yet been defined. The reparations will be determined once the initial registration stage is completed. No one can tell you what those reparations will be or if they will be social, financial, or symbolic. But you can participate in the discussions about this issue through your organization. Only official Commission members verify and confirm cases. No person or agency can verify or confirm a case a priori. If the Commission does not attend you well, let your organization know. The first reparation you deserve is good treatment.

Recommendations for filling out the Registration Form

1. You may pick up the form at the Provincial Government office near you. You may also download it from the Commission's web page:

2. You can ask the government staff person to help you fill out the form. You can also fill it out on your own or with help from someone or an organization who is familiar with the issue.

3. The form and the registration with the Commission is free of charge. If someone charges you, report it!

4. In the case of political prisoners and/or victims of torture who are deceased, a direct family member such as parents, siblings, spouse, or children may fill the registration form.

Don't forget

The first identification page is filled out only once. The following pages are filled out with one for each situation of detention or episode of torture. It is advisable to photocopy the sheets to fill in the information if the victim was arrested more than two times. Do not turn in original documents. Photocopy any papers you think will be useful for the Commission.

If the victim has information about the arrest or torture (legal documents, medical reports, social worker evaluations, press material) or a file with a national or international human rights agency of the government, the courts or of any other kind, make a note of it on the registration form. The Commission will ask for those files. Turn in the registration form along with a photocopy of your Identification Card. Be sure to ask for a receipt.

Registration ends May 11!

For more information refer to the following web pages:


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