Human Rights NATIONAL

IACHR asks Chile to void reduced dictatorship-related sentences

Scores of dictatorship henchmen could face prison sentences if the Chilean Supreme Court follows recommendations of the Inter-American human rights commission. Many perpetrators were convicted under the concept of partial statute of limitations, which allows lower sentences or even none at all. If the Supreme Court agrees, a broader legal overhaul will be necessary.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has recommended Chile’s Supreme Court revise 14 sentences involving 50 convicts that committed crimes against humanity during the dictatorship. Specifically, the reductions were based on the concept of partial statute of limitations, which allows lighter sentences for criminals who are tried after half the statute of limitations period has passed.

Investigative collective Ciper reported the IACHR recommended suspending the concept for dictatorship henchmen and issue new sentences. Some perpetrators that were convicted under the partial statute of limitations didn’t even have to go to prison, but the situation could change. 

The IACHR said the concept cannot be applied to crimes against humanity, since these crimes don’t carry a statute of limitations and because the rulings violate international treaties Chile signed. Karinna Fernández, IACHR representative for this case, told Ciper that the state would have to “modify the legislation in order to guarantee that the half or gradual statute of limitations can no longer be applied to crimes against humanity.”

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Precedents

The recommendation is based on a case the IACHR took in 2008. The Association of Families of the Detained-Disappeared (AFDD) represented the family of Juan Rivera Matus, union leader at electricity utility Chilectra and member of the Communist Party, who was detained in 1975. His remains were found in 2001.

The AFDD claimed that Álvaro Corbalán, Sergio Díaz, Freddy Ruiz and Carlos Madrid, who were convicted for Rivera Matus’ death, benefited unduly from the concept. Later, the association presented 13 more cases involving 48 victims and 46 military personnel and other state representatives.

If the Supreme Court adheres to the IACHR’s recommendations, the concept of partial statute of limitations would also have to be revised, with tighter definitions of cases it applies to. And the court would have to review many more cases that are not covered by the IACHR.

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