Chile debates legal status of ‘forcibly disappeared’ persons during Pinochet dictatorship
Amnesty International Chile made public its 2012 Annual Report on Human Rights last week putting a special emphasis on justice for victims of human rights atrocities committed during the military dictatorship that ruled the country from 1973-1990.
The report was launched in the midst of a recently rekindled Chilean national debate over the legal status of forcibly disappeared persons during that period.
In Chile, victims of the forced disappearances are legally considered to be alive, in spite of the insistence by some human rights activists that they be given a special “forcibly disappeared” status, as is the case in neighbouring Argentina.
Hernán Vergara, President of Amnesty International Chile urged the government to take action. “The government has to take a position on the case,” Vergara told the Santiago Times at the report’s launching.
This debate re-emerged in Chile after the national electoral service, Servel, released a sample of newly electronic voting registries, which included the names of about 1,000 forcibly disappeared persons.
Juan Carlos Moraga of Servel insisted that Servel had not made a mistake, since these people were all legally alive.
“The deep-down problem is that the Chilean state has not been able to classify the legal state of disappeared persons,” Moraga told the Santiago Times.
Lorena Fries, president of Chile’s National Institute of Human Rights (INDH), voiced this opinion as well.
“The solution to this has to do with modifying the law to give special status to the people that appear on the electoral register even though they are disappeared persons,” Fries told La Tercera.
The UN’s International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance states that “each state party shall take the appropriate steps with regard to the legal situation of disappeared persons whose fate has not been clarified.”
Providing special legal status is only one step in finding justice for the victims, however. As the Amnesty International report also recognized, only 66 out of the 245 convicted perpetrators of human rights abuses during the dictatorship are currently in prison.
By Maria Giulia Agostini - The Santiago Times