Still no justice for Boris Weisfeiler

On Friday the Valech Commission, the panel undertaking a further investigation into human rights abuses under the 1973-1990 Pinochet regime, published its final report online, listing additional killings and abuses committed during this period. An additional 30 deaths were added, raising the death toll to 3,095 and the total number of victims at just over 40,000.

Missing from this revised list is Boris Weisfeiler, the Penn State mathematics professor who disappeared while hiking in southern Chile in 1985 and the only American desaparecido. He was an experienced outdoorsman who had hiked alone in remote parts of Peru, Uzbekistan, Russia and Canada, but his trail in the Andean foothills brought him near Colonia Dignidad,  a secretive German colony used as a detention center by the regime’s secret police (see earlier posts on March 21 and 30). According to declassified U.S. State Department documents, Chilean witnesses reported seeing Weisfeiler at the compound.  His case has been under judicial investigation for years, but no indictments have been made, and the Valech Commission appears not to have found enough evidence to include the case in its report.

Olga Weisfeiler, who submitted her brother’s case to the Valech Commission in March of last year, posted a statement on her family’s web site expressing her extreme disappointment with the decision. “My brother is a victim of the political repression of the Pinochet regime, even if the Commission did not have the proof at its disposal to formally accept his case as a human rights atrocity,” she wrote. “I have waited over 25 years for both truth and justice in his case, and I will continue to wait for the government of Chile, and the Courts, to do what must be done to find him, and punish those who are responsible for depriving him of his life and liberty, and taking him from his family. It is also time for the U.S. government to make clear to Chile that the case of Boris Weisfeiler must be resolved and to provide all necessary investigative assistance toward that long overdue goal.”

The Weisfeiler case is still in the hands of a Chilean prosecutor, but it is unclear how the country’s judicial system will proceed. Earlier this year Olga made her tenth visit to Chile to meet with authorities in Santiago and U.S. Embassy officials, and came away with a somewhat more optimistic feeling that the case was being taken seriously. But now she told me in an e mail that she has “no idea what if anything will happen with the investigation now.”

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