Chile: four women file sexual torture complaint

On Dec. 1 Nieves Ayress Moreno, a Chilean-born naturalized US citizen, formally joined a criminal complaint filed earlier by three other Chilean women over sexual political violence that they say they suffered under the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. Chilean law doesn't treat sexual violence as a separate complaint; instead, the crimes are considered "illegitimate pressure," allowing some of the perpetrators to escape justice. The complaint seeks to have the crimes "incorporated into the penal code and those responsible for them to be able to be punished," according to another of the plaintiffs, Alejandra Holzapfel. Ayress Moreno, who lives in New York, delayed joining Holzapfel and the remaining two plaintiffs, Soledad Castillo and Nora Brito, in the complaint until she could travel to Chile.

After meeting with Santiago Appeals Court president Mario Carroza on Dec. 1, Ayress described some of her experiences to reporters at a press conference. She was abducted by security forces along with her father and 15-year-old brother in the fall of 1973, she said, and was subjected to electric shocks and sexual violence in the Londres 38 torture center of the now-defunct National Intelligence Directorate (DINA).

"Later they brought my father so that he could hear the tortures," she said, adding that the torturers included Argentines, Brazilians and Paraguayans. "Afterwards they transferred me to Tejas Verdes [concentration camp], always bound and hooded. The most terrible part was there, because the torture school was there, and the forms of aggressions and sexual violence I was exposed to are unspeakable." At one point, she said, she witnessed DINA director Manuel Contreras personally directing her torture.

Court president Carroza told the website for the memorial park at Villa Grimaldi, another DINA torture center, that while technically the complaint would have to be treated under Chilean laws in effect at the time of the alleged abuses, Chile had signed on to international human rights conventions that might apply to the cases. "As the judicial power, we need to look at this situation, analyze it and confront it in the shortest possible time," he said. "We've already been condemned in the past by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights [CorteIDH], precisely for not carrying out this type of investigation in depth." (Fox News Latino, Dec. 1; Rebelión, Dec. 1)

Nieves Ayress is well known in New York as an activist for immigrants and for human rights. Her husband, Víctor Toro, was a founder of Chile's Revolutionary Left Movement (MIR); he too was tortured by the Pinochet regime. In 2007 the US government started a seven-year effort to deport Toro as an undocumented immigrant, but on Oct. 23 of this year a US immigration court granted him a work permit and permission to remain in the country, while denying his request for political asylum. (TeleSUR English, Oct. 24)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, December 7.