The slow pace of truth and justice

First there was the National Commission on Truth and Reconciliation (http://www.usip.org/files/resources/collections/truth_commissions/Chile90-Report/Chile90-Report.pdf), which in 1991 reported that 2,279 persons were killed for political reasons under the Pinochet regime, with another 641 cases which researchers could not conclusively determine were politically motivated murders.  And there were another 449 cases of individuals who had disappeared, but no information other than their names could be determined.

Then there was the Valech Commission report of 2004  which documented arrests and torture under the regime, with testimonies from 35,865 people, of which 27,255 were deemed to be credible (http://www.comisionvalech.gov.cl/InformeValech.html. The commission’s work was criticized for being too limited—witnesses’ statements were taken for only six months and could only be given during office hours—but it prompted Chilean army commander General Julio Cheyre to publicly acknowledge the military’s abuses during that period.

And now comes the second Valech report, presented this week to President Sebastian Pinera. Shortly before she left office outgoing president Michelle Bachelet reopened the commission, which identified another 9,800 people arrested and tortured.  This brings the total of officially recognized victims to just over 40,000, with the number of those killed raised to 3,065. Survivors will be eligible for a modest state pension of about $260 per month.

There are still dozens of former regime officials facing prosecution for human rights crimes, with about 70 currently serving prison sentences. But the Chilean judicial system is so overloaded that the country’s prosecutors went on strike August 17, complaining of massive backlogs and insufficient funding.

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