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Human Rights

Chilean court awards former political prisoner 50 million pesos in damages for torture

April 15, 2022 3:12pm

Updated: April 15, 2022 3:54pm

A Chilean court ordered the government to pay 50 million pesos ($61,000) in damages to Bernardo Primitivo Jorquera Guerrero, who was arrested in the days after the military coup that ousted socialist President Salvador Allende on Sept. 11, 1973.

According to court records, the man was arrested on Sept. 12, 1973 and taken to a soccer stadium in Chile’s capital, Santiago, where he was subjected to torture at the hands of the Chilean Armed Forces. He was subsequently sent to the infamous Chacabuco prison camp in the northern city of Antofagasta, Chilean news outlets reported.

In a unanimous decision, the Court of Appeals of Santiago declared that the defendant should be paid a total of 50 million pesos plus readjustments for inflation.  

“This Court has prudentially evaluated the pretium doloris claims made by the defendant, taking into account the plaintiff’s age at the time he was detained and tortured by agents of the state; the circumstances surrounding the event; the duration and severity of the physical and emotional suffering; and especially the amounts awarded to victims in similar human rights cases,” the court stated.

Chile’s military government took control of the country in Sept. 1973 after seizing power from Salvador Allende’s socialist government which had thrown Chile into one of the worst economic disasters in the Andean nation’s history.

The military government, headed by General Augusto Pinochet, remained in power for 17 years but stepped aside after a national plebiscite called for free elections.

After Pinochet lost to Patricio Aylwin in 1989, the government established Chile’s National Commision for Truth and Reconciliation to investigate human rights abuses that occurred under the military regime.

The town of Chacabuco was founded in 1924 by the Lautaro Nitrate Company amid the saltpeter boom but was abandoned shortly after. Although Allende declared the town a Historic Monument of Chile in 1971, the military government turned it into a political prison camp from 1973-74.

At its peak, the camp held up to 1,800 prisoners, many of whom were allegedly tortured or killed by Chilean security forces.