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Compensation planned for 27 thousand pinochet victims { November 29 2004 }

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Compensation plan for 27,000 Pinochet victims
By Adam Thomson in Buenos Aires
Published: November 29 2004 18:01 | Last updated: November 29 2004 18:01

Chile's government is to seek congressional approval to compensate more than 27,000 victims of political imprisonment and torture at the hands of the country's rightwing military regime, which ruled from 1973 to 1990.

The decision forms part of President Ricardo Lagos's conclusions in a report published this week on the use of torture and imprisonment during the 17-year military government led by General Augusto Pinochet.

The report, which Mr Lagos called “an experience without precedent in the world”, is based on interviews with more than 35,000 people who claimed to have been either detained or tortured by the state during the dictatorship.

The report outlines in grim detail how political detainees were subjected to repeated beatings, electric shocks, mock executions and games of Russian roulette, among other tortures. Almost all the 3,400 women interviewed said they had suffered sexual abuse.

“How does one explain such horror?” asked Mr Lagos. “I have no answer.”

On Monday Sebastian Brett of Human Rights Watch in Santiago said: “The report shows clearly for the first time that torture was a systematic, state policy throughout the military regime.” That finding stands in marked contrast to the line adopted until recently by Chile's armed forces and sympathetic political parties. But Mr Brett said the report's findings held no immediate implications for the fate of Gen Pinochet. The former armed forces chief is in ill health and fighting a legal battle on several fronts related to charges of human rights abuses.

One of those centres on his alleged involvement in Plan Cóndor, a plan drawn up by South America's military governments to share information and carry out joint operations against political opponents. A decision on whether Gen Pinochet is mentally fit to stand trial is expected within a few weeks.

Mr Lagos said that torture victims, most of whom are now at least in their mid-50s, would receive 112,000 pesos (€150, £105, $195) a month equivalent to 1½ times the minimum state pension.

Mr Lagos said the sums involved represented the government's “maximum effort” given the state's obligations, “particularly with the country's poorest families”.

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