Human Rights Social Crisis

Update: Judge Reveals Additional Evidence in Baquedano Torture Case

SANTIAGO – Judge Daniel Urrutia described finding bullet cartridges and plastic ties in the Baquedano metro station. This, after a student complained that the station was being used as a torture center on Oct. 23. The location and this additional evidence matches the victim’s story, Urrutia said.

In an interview with CNN and Chilevisión, Judge Daniel Urrutia, investigating allegations that Baquedano metro station was being used as a torture center, explained the latest findings.

Referring to the original complaint, in which student “N. L.” claimed to have seen hanged bodies, and heard screams and cries for help inside the station, Urrutia emphasized to El Desconcierto that no people, bodies, or blood were found at the metro station.

Urrutia did, however, state that the station had security cameras and that the location visited completely matched the victim’s description, but the cameras did not face the space where the victim said he looked, which might explain why there was no available footage.

Urrutia also said that “seven [bullet] cartridges and two plastic ties were found in said place. Both [ties] were cut and lying on the floor.” He also said that the police officer in charge of the station clarified that they did not use those kinds of ties. The judge added that the cartridges were shotgun shells.

According to the National Institute of Human Rights (INDH), the plastic ties are commonly used as handcuffs, and a cut one can only mean it has been used. Also, policemen did not usually make use of the place, and they could not explain why such elements were there.

L., who brought his testimony to the INDH on Oct. 23, was detained during the night and brought briefly to the Baquedano metro station on his way to the Baquedano police station. There, he claimed to have seen hanged bodies and heard screams and calls for help. He later complained about this to the INDH. His story then quickly went viral as it reflects the public’s fear of a revival of tactics used during the dictatorship era.

The Role of the Media in Chilean Society

The Conflict

The case has not been free of misinformation and internal controversy. PDI Director Héctor Espinosa confronted INDH’s Sergio Micco for miscommunicating issues that, as Espinosa declared, could be very damaging in these critical times in Chile. 

Espinosa accused Micco of committing a severe mistake by suggesting legal actions against PDI subordinates, as the INDH assumed they could be involved in the case—an accusation that was strongly denied and condemned by Espinosa, who said in El Dínamo that he “found it an absolute irresponsibility, to bring information to the people with no previous verification; especially in the times we live today, full of effervescence, intranquility, and wrong information around … [Micco] needs to apologize to Chile. He needs to apologize to the 12.700 [PDI] detectives as well.”

Micco apologized soon, saying he owned his mistake. “Who committed the mistake was me. I will not compromise the INDH. I assumed a judgement before we could find out what really happened.”

Later Updates

After N. L. notified INDH, they filed an appeal for preventive protection for the case, and that caused the PDI’s Espinosa, Judges Urrutia and Darwin Bratti of the Seventh Court of Guarantee, in the company of the INDH’s Micco, to visit the scene in the early hours of Oct. 23.

“We reviewed the entire enclosure. Even the lawyer of the INDH went with a flashlight lighting the darkest sectors, and we did not find any indication of an unregistered detention, … there was nothing that [indicated] moorings [for hanging people], nor blood, ” Judge Bratti told El Desconcierto.

Urrutia added, “on the floor there was a zone with no cameras, with water … Near the place there was a fire there [that’s why]. There was chlorine to clean, and a lot of water.

INDH former director Consuelo Contreras, on the other hand, told El Desconcierto that “enough signs were found for the justice system to initiate an investigation.”

According to lawyers for Universidad de Chile, working with the INDH on the case, the evidence is not consistent, but the situation is suspicious, and the complaint, credible.

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What’s Next?

Urrutia, talking more generally about complaints of excessive use of force by the military and police, told El Desconcierto that once abuse complaints are made prosecutors start whatever investigation needs to be started.

The commotion over abuse complaints has also triggered action by UN Human Rights High Commissioner and Chile’s former president Michelle Bachelet, who announced she would be sending a specialized team to Chile, to monitor human rights violations during the social crisis. According to BioBioChile, she said that “in the next few days we will have an international observer mission in the country.”

She said parliamentarians and the government had expressed interest in receiving a mission from her unit due to State of Emergency decrees after the demonstrations and destruction that began last Friday, and which resulted in curfews, military on the streets, and accusations of human rights violations.

Requests for the UN team had been requested by representatives of “the Party For Democracy, Communist, Socialist, Progressive, Humanist, Radical, Common, Green Ecologist, Democratic Revolution, DC, the Green Social Regionalist Federation and independent opponents,” as reported by BioBioChile.

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