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Source: Council on Hemispheric Affairs – Analysis-Reportage

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In an extraordinary step backward a Chilean Court of Appeals granted release and sentence reductions to 17 State actors convicted of crimes against humanity perpetrated against thousands of Chilean citizens during the Pinochet dictatorship, provoking condemnation by survivors and the international human rights community. In the context of several months of relentless and brutal government repression of pro-democracy demonstrations and President Sebastián Piñera’s intransigent commitment to a failed economic model, this show of impunity sends the wrong message to the police forces who have already brutalized thousands of Chileans and undermined the rule of law. These measures violate international human rights law signed by Chile.

COHA republishes this open letter initiated by Chilean concerned citizens in Washington DC, supported by more than one hundred people from different countries, against impunity in Chile.

Chilean residents in the United States and persons of all nationalities express their concern for impunity in Chile for violators of human rights

We the undersigned Chilean residents in the US and persons of all nationalities profoundly condemn the judgement of acquittal and reduction of sentences by the Court of Appeals of Santiago, for 17 violators of human rights, adjudicated for crimes against humanity committed during the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

Minister Juan Cristóbal Mera Muñoz, Minister Mireya López Miranda and member attorney Cristián Lepin Molina, absolved the former agents of the National Directorate of Intelligence (Dirección Nacional de Inteligencia, DINA) Pedro Espinoza, Rolf Wenderoth, Hermon Alfaro, Pedro Betterlich, Claudio Pacheco, Orlando Torrejón, Orlando Altamirano and Eusebio López.  They also reduced the sentences of Ricardo Lawrence, Jorge Andrade, Juan Morales Salgado, Ciro Torré, Sergio Escalona, Juvenal Piña, Jorge Díaz, Gustavo Guerrero y Gladys Calderón to 3 years and 1 day. Pedro Espinoza was an accomplice of the notorious criminal who was the right hand man of Pinochet, Manuel Contreras. Espinoza was the chief of the Villa Grimaldi, a center of torture and forced disappearance. Espinoza was also involved in the operation called “Caravan of death” in which almost 100 persons around the country were assassinated, and he participated in the terrorist attack on Orlando Letelier in Washington DC. All of these criminals had been convicted on July 21, 2017 for 16 kidnappings and one homicide perpetrated in Villa Grimaldi.

The judges’ actions benefit state actors, functionaries of the armed forces and Carabineros police who committed crimes against humanity, including kidnappings, sexual assaults, indescribable tortures and assassinations of Chileans for their political beliefs. According to international law, such crimes constitute acts of state terrorism.

The campaign of impunity has even extended to perpetrators of human rights violations who are completing their sentences in the Punta Peuco prison. Pinochetista legislators are pressuring the Piñera government to grant those among these prisoners who are over 75 years old the benefit of house arrest, measures presently being studied with regard to the coronavirus. The characteristics of Punta Peuco prison, however, considered a place “of luxury” on account of its many benefits, comfortable rooms, and special services, does not justify the application of the same criterion used in the case of overcrowded conditions found in ordinary penitentiary centers.

These very grave deeds of the past few days imply an emotional drama, especially cruel for those family members and loved ones of the thousands of victims of violations of human rights committed by these State agents. Chile has demonstrated an enormous legal ambiguity and  ongoing policy of impunity since the end of the dictatorship. These recent actions, especially the decision of the Court of Appeals, demonstrates that the application of justice in the face of serious violations of human rights continues to be an unfinished task, politicized and debilitated by certain sectors of the society which even confuse the right to defend a political ideology with the necessity to defend, above all, the human life. Also, there ought to be a moral imperative to oppose state terrorism and  bring to justice those who infringe against the dignity of the human personality.

With the decision by the Court, Chile is also out of compliance with international treaties and the jurisprudence of the Interamerican Court of Human Rights (Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, CIDH). The cases of Almonacid, Arellano and others v. Chile, and La Cantuta v. Perú  have established unequivocally the obligation of member states to investigate and prosecute all crimes against humanity, treating them as the most serious violations of human rights. Once responsibility is established, the state, through its judicial branch, ought to apply sanctions commensurate with the gravity of the crimes. These principles of international law  obligate states to avoid any measure that permits amnesty or sets aside the responsibility of the guilty. Chile appears to regress in this regard, abandoning the doctrine that the CIDH has followed for years and forgetting the purpose of these norms of international law related to human rights, laws which are designed to provide a disincentive, under any circumstances, to commit such crimes.

We call upon the Supreme Court, the government authorities, and legislators to forcefully exercise their full legal and political authority to urge Chile to fulfill its international obligations with regard to human rights and vigorously oppose these acts of impunity for crimes so serious that they have affected and continue to affect generations of citizens of our country.


  1. Abril Viscaya, Venezuela
  2. Ada Troncoso, US
  3. Adam Kaluba, US
  4. Adolfo Guidali, France
  5. Adriana Bolívar, Argentina
  6. Alejandra Barrueto, Chile
  7. Alejandra Montecino, Chile
  8. Alex Main, US
  9. Alicia Bustillo, US
  10. Alicia Soto, US
  11. Alma Torres-Martinez, US
  12. Ana Laura Pereira, US
  13. Anahí Arizmendi, Venezuela
  14. Andrea Rojas, US
  15. Andrés Habella, US
  16. Andrew Vavrunek, US
  17. Angelica McInerney, US
  18. Ayla Bailey, US
  19. Blanca Flor Bonilla, El Salvador
  20. Bonnie Fox, US
  21. Bonnie McCrimmon, Canada
  22. Brenda Choi, US
  23. Camila Rojas, Chile
  24. Camilo Soria, Chile
  25. Carlos Alejandro Morales Mateluna, US
  26. Carlos Morales Mateluna, Switzerland
  27. Carmen Paz Nunez Hoffmann, US
  28. Carolina Cucumides, US
  29. Carter Carlson, US
  30. Cecilia Morales, Chile
  31. Cecilia Toledo Gonzalez, US
  32. Celestino Barrera, US
  33. Cheryl LaBash, US
  34. Cindy BelloweBellowe, US
  35. Clayton Lee, US
  36. Cloe Soria, Chile
  37. Cristian Foerster, Chile
  38. Cristian Gamboa, US
  39. Darlene Hebert, Canada
  40. David Paul, US
  41. Demetrus Jackson, US
  42. Deyanira Garza, US
  43. Dianne Budd, US
  44. Edalis Mejia, US
  45. Elena Hildreth, US
  46. Evelyn González, US
  47. Estefania Del Real, Chile
  48. Fabiana Gallardo, Chile
  49. Felipe Fredes , US
  50. Francesca Emanuelle
  51. Frederick Mills, US
  52. Gema Casanova, US
  53. Gonzalo Valerio Soto, Honduras
  54. Héctor Sepúlveda, US
  55. Ignacio Shinya, Chile
  56. Isabel Pizarro, Chile
  57. Isella Calderon, Chile
  58. Jill Clark-Gollub, US
  59. John Moriarty, US
  60. Jorge Consuegra, US
  61. Jorge Pizarro, US
  62. Jorge Ramírez, Chile
  63. Julia Stover, US
  64. Juliana Barnet, US
  65. Karen Morales, US
  66. Karina Armenta, US
  67. Katrina McBrian, US
  68. Laura Franco, Venezuela
  69. Laura Soria, Chile
  70. Leonardo Flores, US
  71. Leonardo Vera, US
  72. Leslie Salgado, US
  73. Lidia Soto, Chile
  74. Liliana Cannobbio, Chile
  75. Lilly Macier, US
  76. Luis Soria González-Vera, Chile
  77. Márcia Cury, Brasil
  78. Marco E., US
  79. Maria Cristina Urquieta Aranciabia, US
  80. María Paz González, Chile
  81. Marta Pizarro, Chile
  82. Martha Allen, US
  83. Merrill Cole, US
  84. Michelle Ellner, US
  85. Miriam Manresa, US
  86. Monica Navarro, US
  87. Morelia Reali, US
  88. Natalie Deriu, US
  89. Nora Pizarro, US
  90. Pamela Alejandra Weitz, US
  91. Pamela Cecilia Molina Toledo, US
  92. Pamela Molina, US
  93. Pamela Zúñiga Grandi, US
  94. Patricia Cifuentes, Chile
  95. Patricia Edith Pizarro Toro, Chile
  96. Patricio Zamorano, US
  97. Phoenix Oaks, US
  98. Rebecca Ellner, US
  99. Robinet Castillo-Zarate, US
  100. Rodrigo López, Chile
  101. Ronald Gallardo Duarhtt, Chile
  102. Sergio Galikea, Chile
  103. Taigan Wright, US
  104. Teresa aybar Carbajal, US
  105. Teri Matson, US
  106. Timothy Brett, Canada
  107. Vanessa Asenjo, Mexico
  108. Walter Gustavo Weitz Marholz, US
  109. Yela Andarcia, Mexico
  110. Yu-Ting Chu, US
  111. Yvonne Mcdonald, US
  112. Zarko Retamal Yacsich, US

Photo credit: Museo de la Memoria, Santiago of Chile