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Chile: Secret Police Convictions Upheld

Supreme Court Declares Amnesty Inapplicable

(Santiago, November 17, 2004) — The Chilean Supreme Court’s decision today to confirm the prison sentences of General Manuel Contreras and four other military officers for a 1975 case of forced disappearance is a major victory for accountability, Human Rights Watch said.


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“Today’s ruling gives full backing to efforts by the lower courts to hold accountable those responsible for grave human rights violations under military rule,” said José Miguel Vivanco, executive director of the Americas Division of Human Rights Watch. “It is a great victory for the victims’ families and their lawyers, who have battled for years to bring this about.”  
The Supreme Court’s second chamber unanimously upheld the doctrine that “forced disappearance” is an ongoing crime until proof of the victim’s death has been established. The court agreed with lawyers for the victim that the doctrine invalidated an amnesty decree issued by the military government in 1978 that covers human rights crimes committed between September 11, 1973, and the date of the decree.  
Government agents detained Miguel Ángel Sandoval Rodríguez, a 26-year-old tailor in January 1975. He was held in secret detention in the Villa Grimaldi, a clandestine camp in Santiago, where he was tortured. Sandoval was one of 119 missing detainees who were later falsely reported in the press to have been found dead in Argentina, a ruse concocted by the secret police to cover up their secret execution. His body has never been found.  
The court’s view that “disappearances” should be considered ongoing crimes has provided grounds for hundreds of former military and police officers to be prosecuted in the last few years for “disappearances” and killings during the first five years of the Pinochet dictatorship, despite the amnesty that was intended to prevent this from happening.  


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