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Historic Verdict for Chile

First compensation for survivors of torture under Pinochet

Leopoldo Garcia Lucera, 80 years old, lives in London and is a Chilean exile who was tortured during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. Like thousands of his compatriots, he underwent violence of every type after the coup d’état of September 11. 1973, that put an end to the democratic government of Salvador Allende.

40 years after the fall of the state, Garcia won his legal battle to obtain reparations from the Chilean state for the torture inflicted on him by the soldiers of Pinochet. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights-with headquarters in San Josè, Costa Rica-ruled in his favor and held Chile the responsible for forcing the man into exile in 1975. Now Santiago will be able to return to Chile and prosecute those who tortured him. 

Before his capture, Leopoldo was the manager of a racetrack gambling office in the Chilean capital and a soldier of the socialist party. His nightmare started a few days after the coup d’état when the police arrested him. Garcia was tortured for information about other people tied to the Socialist party: every two or three of hours his torturers tied his hands to his feet, blindfolded him, struck his head and immersed him in water. Following his arrest and subsequent torture he was moved to the National Stadium where he was tortured for another three months before being transferred to detention camps in Chacabuco, Tres Alamos and Ritoque.

I lost teeth-recounted Garcia-and the scar on my face was caused by a blow from a machine gun. I had a broken arm and permanent damage to my spine. Even now I live with pain from the consequences of my injuries incurred in that period, it will be so until I die”. When he was liberated, on the condition that he left the country, Leopoldo went to London with his family, unable to work because of the impairment the torture had caused him, having lost all of his belongings and assets he had possessed in Chile.

long road for justice started in 1994, when Leopoldo decided to start proceedings in the Inter-American Association of the Protection of Human Rights, in order to ask for reparations from the Chilean state. He addressed the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, the agency used to receive the denunciations of violations of human rights on behalf of individuals, which dictated the case admissible in 2005 and referred it to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in 2011. The court, a true system of law, started the proceedings that a couple of days ago, ruled in favor of Leopold, recounting excessively late investigations by the Chilean government in his case and supporting that this represented a violation of his rights, in which  a compensation was necessary.

The sentence has a dual significance. On one side, it is the first decision of a court of justice in the case of a survivor of torture under Pinochet’s regime and thus constructs a precedent for many other Chileans that are escapees of the dictatorship of the general, the other important element of the establishment-and distinguished,  since it came from a supranational court-is that it strengthens the memory of what occurred in Chile during the 1980s. 

7 November 2013

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