Chile: Operation Condor judgement major win for accountability – Türk

Geneva, 17 December, 2023.-UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk today hailed Chile’s Supreme Court judgement on Operation Condor – a notorious campaign coordinated among South America’s dictatorships in the 70s and 80s to persecute political opponents and dissidents – as a major step towards accountability for thousands of victims.

The former dictatorships in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay implemented Operation Condor to search for, persecute, torture, summarily kill and forcibly disappear people perceived as dissidents across the region. They used a myriad of tactics to eliminate them, including throwing people out of aeroplanes and helicopters.

On 14 December, in a unanimous ruling, Chile’s Supreme Court confirmed the convictions of 22 agents of the dissolved Directorate of National Intelligence (DINA) for the kidnappings and qualified homicides of some victims of the Operation Condor, and ordered reparation measures.

“The calculated cruelty of these dictatorships has continued to have a profound impact on the families of those who suffered these serious human rights violations, the societies and the history of the region,” said Türk.

“I pay tribute to the victims and families who have been courageously and relentlessly searching for decades the truth, justice, and reparations for their enforced disappeared loved ones. I hope this judgment will reinvigorate the pursuit of accountability in the region. This is essential to ensure such gross violations do not occur in the future.”

The Operation Condor judgment is the latest to be handed down by Chilean courts in recent months against cases involving crimes against humanity.

Others include Operation Colombo, an operation carried out by DINA in collaboration with counterparts in Argentina and Brazil to search and forcibly disappear opponents while publicly informing they had died during armed confrontations with foreign security forces or that they had been victims of internal purges; Death Caravan involving a general and three army officers who travelled the country systematically executing political prisoners and presumed opponents of the regime; as well as Conference II, Paine, Fuente Ovejuna, Víctor Jara and Littré Quiroga, and Carmelo Soria.

“Victims and their families have been waiting too long – half a century – to know the truth, and to get justice and reparations for serious human rights violations committed during the dictatorship,” said Türk.

According to official data, more than 3,200 people were killed during the military dictatorship from 1973 to 1990, half of them believed to have been forcibly disappeared.

Türk also acknowledged Chile´s progress on other pillars of transitional justice in the year of the 50th anniversary of the 1973 military coup d´état, such as the State’s adoption of the National Search Plan. In addition, the judgement clearly states that it is the obligation of the State to search for the victims and this obligation is not extinguished with the initiation and/or completion of a criminal investigation.

“Essential files containing testimonies and statements from victims of torture and political imprisonment that remain sealed need to be accessed immediately, and all state institutions must cooperate with this objective,” the High Commissioner said.

“It is time to know the fate and whereabouts of all disappeared people – including that of the babies stolen from their parents.”

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