Is there Impunity in Chile?

Event details


Date & time

Tuesday 25 June 2019


Seminar Room 1.04, Coombs Extension Building #8, ANU
ANU Canberra


Javier Andrés Contreras Olivares


School of Regulation and Global Governance (RegNet)

(Difficulties and challenges in the accountability cases about the massive violations of human rights perpetrated during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet)

On September 11th, 1973, the democratic government of the former socialist president Salvador Allende was overthrown by a military joint, led by Augusto Pinochet, Commander in Chief of the Chilean Army. This coup d’Etát was supported by the Chilean right-wing and the CIA.

The military-civilian dictatorship governed for seventeen years. Over this period, massive violations of human rights (e.g. illegal detentions, kidnappings, torture, killings, rape, enforced disappearance), were perpetrated by the military forces and intelligence departments established specifically to repress political opponents and the civilian population.

March 10th 1990, was an historical day in Chile, because the country was returned to democracy. The transitional governments made some efforts to bring truth and justice -“only if possible”, to the victims of massive human rights violations and their relatives .

Three Truth Commissions were created in 1990, 1992 and 2004 and their published reports established that 1,102 people were victims of enforced disappearance, 2,095 were murdered, and 36,980 people were victims of political repression and torture but survived. In 2011, another report established 30 new victims without distinguishing if they were murdered or were victims of enforced disappearance.

In 1998, after the detention of Augusto Pinochet in London, England, the Chilean Judicial Branch received the first complaints against the former dictator. In that year the Supreme Court established that the Amnesty Law from 1978 should not be applied.

In 2004, the first conviction was established in the case of an enforced disappearance.

But, even today, there are some difficulties and challenges including:
1. “Biological impunity”.
2. The slow processing of cases.
3. “Silence agreements”.
4. Low conviction rates.
5. The Constitutional Court has the ability to suspend any kind of trial. 6. Mistaken victim body identification.
7. The 50 years of secrecy established for the documents presented by victims of political repression and torture.

About the speaker

Javier Andrés Contreras Olivares is a Chilean lawyer, graduated from Law School of Diego Portales University. Since February 2013, Javier has been working at the Unit “Program of Human Rights” of the Undersecretary of Human Rights of the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights of Chile, litigating accountability cases about the massive human rights violations perpetrated during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. By his actual job he has great experience in Transitional Justice, International Law of Human Rights, International Humanitarian Law, Criminal Law, Procedural Law and Constitutional Law. In 2014 and 2015, about the enforced disappearance of 43 students in Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico, Mr. Contreras was invited by the Mexican Comission of Defense and Promotion of Human Rights, Amnisty International, Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Due Process of Law Foundation and the Attorney’s General Office of Mexico, to give classes on how to combat impunity of massive human rights violations. He represented Diego Portales University at the XI Inter-American Human Rights Moot Court Competition, organized by American University, Washington College of Law, Washington D.C., United States of America, in 2006. Also, he was Judge in the 2015 version of this Moot Court Competition. Javier worked as and Ad honorem researcher at Pro Acceso Foundation in 2008, on issues about access to information and freedom of expression. In 2008 he was awarded with a Diploma of Outstanding Profesional Practice at the Office of Human Rights, given by the Judicial Assitance Corporation-Metropolitan Region, for his excellence in litigating cases about migration, discrimination against LGBITQ community, military justice, among others human rights issues.

Updated:  10 August 2017/Responsible Officer:  Director, RegNet/Page Contact:  Director, RegNet