Chilean bishop calls for new era of reconciliation in wake of torture report

.- Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Sergio Valech Aldunate of Santiago, Chile, called for a “new era of reconciliation in the country” this week after the publication of the final report on the use of torture during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet and he expressed his hope for solutions “for the problems of the future and that the past be left behind.”

Bishop Valech, who headed the Commission on Political Imprisonment and Torture for a year and half, sent the Commission’s final report to President Ricardo Lagos, which was drafted in response to the requests of 7,000 people who suffered incarceration to have their cases reevaluated.

Of these 7,000 cases, the Commission determined that 1,200 people suffered torture, among them 87 children under 12 years of age, who were either detained with their parents, born in prison, or even were still in the womb while their mothers were tortured.  In total, more than 28,000 people were affected by the Pinochet regime.

Bishop Valech acknowledged that, “to ask for pardon on behalf of the State is perhaps insufficient.”  Those listed in the report will receive economic reparations from the government, he announced.

Regarding criticism of the Commission’s work, Bishop Valech said, “People will never be happy about it, but we did what were asked to do as best we could.”

The Vice President of the Commission, Maria Luisa Sepulveda, noted that the 6,000 cases that were not recognized as violations of human rights correspond to persons detained during massive protests and were determined to be cases of “abuse of power.”

“We are not saying these things did not happen, but that they do correspond to the task of the Commission to determine which individuals were victims of imprisonment and torture,” she explained.  The Commission considered more than 35,000 testimonies.

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