Monday, November 29, 2004

Chile torture victims win payout - BBC

Chile torture victims win payout
By Clinton Porteous
BBC correspondent, Santiago

Some 28,000 Chileans abused under the military regime of Augusto Pinochet are eligible for compensation, the nation's first-ever torture report says.

The study lists 18 major types of torture, including suffocation, electric shocks and repeated beatings.

Many of the crimes were carried out by the Chilean army and police and about 3,400 victims were women.

The long-awaited torture report and compensation plan were presented on Sunday by President Ricardo Lagos.

He said nothing could make up for what the victims had suffered - but he offered a life-long pension worth about $190 a month.

Mr Lagos said the sweeping document demonstrated that torture and detention had been an institutional practice for the Chilean state between 1973 and 1990.

He said many thousands had suffered in silence but had finally come forward to tell their story.

Gen Pinochet has never faced trial. But a Chilean judge is due to decide in the next two weeks if he is mentally fit to defend himself against allegations of human rights abuses.

Knock on the door

The report is based on the testimonies of torture victims to a government commission.

1973: Leads coup against President Salvador Allende
1988: Loses plebiscite on rule
1990: Steps down as president
1998: Retires as army commander-in-chief. Arrested in UK at Spain's request
2000: Allowed to return to Chile
2004: Supreme Court strips his legal immunity

The document says many victims were arrested from their homes in the middle of the night and taken to one of 800 detention centres.

It says one favourite tactic was to force detainees to watch other prisoners being tortured or even killed.

Some 12% of the torture victims were women and almost all of them said they had suffered sexual abuse.

The victims included children and 88 of those detained were 12 years or younger.

The report concluded that aside from broken bones and injuries, most of the suffering was psychological.

The personal files of the torture victims will remain secret for the next 50 years unless individuals choose to release them.


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