by Pascale Bonnefoy M. (Lea aquí el artículo original en español)
- READ MORE: Wartime military tribunals: Absolute authority
- TABLE: Proceedings against executed and disappeared persons opened by military courts
After the military coup of 1973, hundreds of bodies of those who had been shot were piled up in the morgue. No one–neither civilian nor military courts–investigated their deaths. However, the ad hoc military prosecutors did make a point of subjecting some of those already executed or disappeared to summary trials and courts martial.
The case books of the Second Military Court of Santiago to which ArchivosChile had access document how the bureaucracy of military justice continued its march, subjecting hundreds of political prisoners to summary proceedings in the first months of the military dictatorship. Among the cases, military prosecutors also opened summary proceedings against 18 people who had been dead or missing for weeks.
The Transparency Law does not apply to courts of justice, including military courts, so it was not possible to request access to military court files and documents as public information. However, ArchivosChile was allowed to review–but not to photograph or copy–the case books of the summary proceedings opened in 1973 in the archive of the Second Military Court of Santiago. The books contain a brief summary of the trajectory of each case that was opened “in wartime” after the military coup. Most refer to accusations of infringement of the laws of Internal Security of the State and Arms Control, but the charges also included “crimes” such as “Extremist”, “Activist”, “Political Activities” and in a few cases, “Curfew.”.
The case status books confirm that no case files were opened for the 785 cases of violent deaths whose jurisdiction was assumed by the military prosecutor’s offices, as recorded in the 1973 book of deaths received by the Servicio Médico Legal (SML).
The only exception was the death of President Salvador Allende. At the end of December 1973, a military prosecutor opened an investigation into his death which, according to the official autopsy, was a suicide.
The actual files referred to in the status book were not available. They were destroyed in 1989, shortly before the transition to democratic government.
- READ MORE: Pyromania in 1989: Incinerated files
400 indictments against political prisoners
There are three case status books from 1973. Two of them are the correlative continuation of the cases heard before the military coup, where the handwritten annotation “Tiempos de Guerra” (Times of War) heads the beginning of the post-coup indictments. These two books reveal that after the military coup about 400 indictments were opened against political prisoners and a few against military personnel for various crimes unrelated to political repression.
Nearly 200 of the indictments concerned prisoners at the National Stadium and the vast majority were conducted by Carabineros prosecutors, among them Harry Grunewaldt–who frequently used the accusation of “Activist” and “Extremist”–Renato Arellano, Emilio Pomar, Jaime Barría and Jaime Rojas Olea. Other prosecutors who appear in charge of indictments but whose branch is not indicated in the books were Emilio Domarc and Antonio Salamero. Some of the Army prosecutors who conducted investigations at the time were Horacio Ried Undurraga and Joaquín Earlbaum Thomas. Strangely, one of the best known military prosecutors of the time, Rolando Melo Silva, who came to work in the Second Military Prosecutor’s Office in mid-1973, is not listed as being in charge of any of the investigations during those months.
Execute first, judge second
The most notorious of these books are the proceedings against people who had already been executed or disappeared. According to these files, the Second Military Prosecutor’s Office in Santiago opened five summary proceedings against 18 people who had already been killed or were missing.
One of them was Ricardo Pardo Tobar, a former Army black beret and MIR militant. Pardo had been arrested on October 10, 1973 and taken to the National Stadium. A month later, prosecutor Renato Arellano opened an indictment (Case 626-73) against Pardo, accusing him of being an “Activist”. In June 1974, the prosecutor requested the temporary dismissal of the case and in August, the Military Judge approved the ruling, ordering the suspension of the proceedings because the accused was “in absentia”.
Pardo Tobar’s “rebelliousness” was due to the fact that he was lying in a grave in Patio 29 of the General Cemetery, as indicated in the General Cemetery archives and as his family was able to verify a few months later, when they recovered his body from that place. Ricardo Pardo had been executed in the National Stadium on the same night of his arrest, as evidenced by the book of admission to the Servicio Médico Legal (SML), known as the “Transfer Book”.
- READ MORE: Database of the SML 1973
That SML book noted the entry of Pardo’s corpse with protocol number 3228, with provenance: “military prosecutor’s office”. The same file indicates that the Second Military Prosecutor’s Office received Pardo’s autopsy report on November 15, 1973, only six days after opening the investigation against him, establishing that he had died of gunshot wounds to the torso. However, the investigation continued, not to determine those responsible for Pardo’s death, but because of the still current accusation of “Activist” against him.
Two other executed persons whose bodies arrived at the morgue shortly after the military coup were also subjected to summary proceedings by military prosecutors weeks later. On November 9, 1973, prosecutor Antonio Salamero opened case 645-73 for violation of the Internal State Security Law against three brothers and their father: Juan Domingo, Victor and Antonio Maldonado Gatica and their father, Manuel Maldonado Miranda, president of an agricultural settlement in Lampa. The four were arrested between September 17 and 18, 1973 and taken to the Army’s Fort Arteaga in the Peldehue military camp. Only two of them survived.
In Peldehue, the father was brutally tortured; German dogs tore his body apart from his waist to his feet, as his son Antonio Maldonado told the author in an interview in 2004. His lifeless body was found on the public road and sent to the morgue on September 22, as recorded in the book of admission of deceased persons to the IML.
The autopsy report stating that Maldonado Miranda had died from gunshots to the head and torso was sent on November 20 to the Second Military Prosecutor’s Office, which continued to process an indictment against him.
While Maldonado Miranda was tortured and executed, his three sons were taken to the National Stadium. According to the testimony of Antonio Maldonado, on their first night, he and his brother Victor and three other detainees were removed from the compound in a police bus and taken to the Grecia Avenue traffic circle to be executed.
Antonio Maldonado managed to escape the firing squad, running in a zigzagging manner when the carabineros were about to open fire, and getting lost in the streets of town. However, he was recaptured that same night by other policemen, who wounded him and returned him to the National Stadium. The following night, he was removed from the stadium again by Carabineros to be shot along with another group of prisoners in the Cajón del Maipo. Again, he survived the execution by jumping into the water from a cliff when the platoon opened fire on the group, which had not yet finished forming on the shore. He hid in the riverbed until the next morning and managed to evade his captors, with a wounded foot, by taking a bus to Santiago and eventually taking refuge in the Belgian Embassy.
The body of Víctor Maldonado was taken from the street to the morgue in a military ambulance the following morning, according to the SML files. His body was sent by the Second Military Prosecutor’s Office, the same one that would open an investigation against him more than a month later, on November 9, despite the fact that on October 31 it had already received the autopsy report of his death due to gunshot wounds.
Seven months after this family tragedy, an investigation was still underway at the Second Military Prosecutor’s Office. Prosecutor Salamero requested a sentence of 60 days imprisonment for Juan Domingo Maldonado–who was transferred from the National Stadium to the Santiago Penitentiary–and the temporary closure of the case against Manuel and Victor Maldonado, both already executed and buried in Lampa. He also requested a 60-day sentence for the only survivor, Antonio Maldonado, who by then had been in exile in Belgium for five months.
La “rebeldía” de los desaparecidos
In two other cases, summary proceedings were opened against missing persons. This happened with Arsenio Poupin Ossiel, who was Undersecretary General of the Government of President Salvador Allende. Poupin was arrested at La Moneda on the day of the military coup and taken to the Tacna Regiment, along with 47 other government advisors, detectives and members of President Allende’s security detail (better known as GAP) taken prisoner that day. Of this group, 21–including Poupin–were taken to the Peldehue military camp in Colina, where, according to the Rettig Commission, they were executed on September 13, 1973. From then on, the 21 were held as disappeared detainees. Twelve of them were identified in recent years by the SML among the remains recovered from Peldehue. Poupin remains missing.
Poupin’s execution and disappearance did not prevent prosecutor Renato Arellano from opening case 612-73 against him and his spouse, Lucía Neira Rivas, on October 8, for violation of the Internal State Security Law. Lucía Neira was detained at the National Stadium.
On December 22, 1973, prosecutor Arellano requested a 10-year sentence “in absentia” against Poupin “for possession of a weapon”. In March 1974, a War Council declared him “in absentia”. At the time of the court martial’s decision, Poupin had been missing for six months.
Something similar happened with MIR militant Flavio Oyarzún Soto, arrested on September 12, 1973 and imprisoned in the National Stadium. On October 22, 1973, while he was in detention, military prosecutor Horacio Ried opened an investigation against him (Case 476-73), accusing him of being an “Extremist”.
Oyarzún was released on bail from the Santiago Penitentiary in March 1974, but in October of that year, he was arrested again, this time by the DINA. That same month he disappeared from the Cuatro Alamos torture center, according to testimonies collected by the Rettig Commission.
Three months later, in January 1975, prosecutor Rolando Melo reactivated the case against Oyarzún, and three months later, requested the temporary closure of the case until new evidence was presented. In July 1975 the Military Judge approved the dismissal and ordered that the accused be notified. However, Flavio Oyarzún had been missing for nine months. The case in the Second Military Court was filed in August 1975.
Case 1032-73: Salvador Allende
In the Archives of the Second Military Court there is a third case status book, with the title “Court Cases in Wartime beginning 11 September 1973.”
This book records the only investigation into the death of a victim, case 1032-73 opened on December 31, 1973. It is the summary of the military prosecutor Joaquín Earlbaum Thomas on the death of President Allende. The brief annotation announcing the opening of an investigation into the death of the overthrown president is not followed by any additional information. Decades later, the autopsy of Allende’s body was made public, with the conclusion that his death was by suicide. The conclusion was ratified by a coroner’s inquest in July 2011.
The indictment for Allende’s death was the last “wartime” case of 1973.
The first was case 1-73 and referred to an investigation against a group composed mainly of members of the GAP arrested upon arriving at La Moneda on the morning of September 11.
Ten of the 13 accused in this case were members of the GAP: Jorge Orrego González, Luis Gamboa Pizarro, Edmundo Montero Salazar, Carlos Cruz Zavala, José Carreño Calderón, Oscar Marambio Araya, Gonzalo Jorquera Leyton, Domingo Blanco Tarré, Pedro Garcés Portigliati and William Ramírez Barría. They were joined in the same case by master painter José Luis Sáez San Martín, Juan Pérez Salazar–who does not appear in the morgue records or in the Rettig and Valech reports—and economics student Enrique Ropert Contreras, son of Miria Contreras, “Payita”, Allende’s assistant. Ropert had been arrested when he went to drop his mother off at the presidential palace on the morning of the military coup.
According to the record of the Second Military Court, the case was denounced by the Sixth Precinct of Santiago, with report number 97, and the investigation was initiated on September 13, 1973–two days after the arrest. The name of the prosecutor in charge is not indicated. The 13 were charged with violating the Firearms Control Law. Two days later, the military prosecutor issued his ruling, requesting a sentence of five years and one day in prison “as co-perpetrators of the crime of carrying a firearm”.
However, 10 of them were executed days later on the Bulnes Bridge, as recorded in the records of the SML, which noted the entry of their bodies on September 20 at 10:50 a.m. The names of Domingo Blanco, Pedro Garcés and Juan Pérez do not appear in the morgue records.
Judicial investigations after the military dictatorship determined that Domingo Blanco was taken to jail on September 15 by order of the Second Military Court and removed on September 19 by order of the same court. He has been missing since then. Pedro Garcés did arrive at the morgue, because his fingerprints were taken there and sent to the Civil Registry for identification, as evidenced by an official document from the Registro Civil at the time. However, the document omitted the protocol number associated with that identification, so it was never possible to know to which body in the morgue that identity belonged, and he remained as a detainee-disappeared. No information can be found on Juan Pérez.
In recent years, the remains of Gamboa, Montero, Marambio and Garcés were identified among the remains exhumed from Patio 29 of the General Cemetery.
The case was closed three days after its opening, on September 16, 1973. The file was among those destroyed in 1989. However, according to the testimony of attorney Fernando Guarello in court, he had the opportunity to see the case file 1-73 that year, when he went to one of the military prosecutors’ offices located in the Ministry of Defense building to consult on the case of one of his defendants, Ropert’s father, Enrique Ropert Gallet, who was then in detention. In his statement, Guarello affirms that the official who attended him made a mistake and passed him the son’s file, case 1-73.
The sentence of five years and one day had been signed by Santiago Military Judge General Hermann Brady Roche, said Guarello.
In 1990, General Brady had to appear before the Twentieth Criminal Court to answer for this case. In his declaration, Brady assured the court that he had no information about Enrique Ropert Contreras, “much less about his death”.
Another book available in the Archives of the Second Military Court contains a list in alphabetical order of those indicted by military courts. In the “Book of Defendants” the name of Enrique Ropert appears under the letter R, as a defendant in case 1631, which does not correspond to the number of the summary, so it could be his father, Enrique Ropert Gallet.
The other persons included in the case 1-73 together with Ropert were not listed. They disappeared even in the books.
 In peacetime, cases in the military prosecutor’s offices dealt exclusively with crimes or infractions committed by military personnel, desertions, mistreatment or unnecessary violence towards civilians, or the death of military personnel, for example.
 Brothers Paulino and Juan Órdenes Simón and Amalindo Beíza Beíza.
 With Maldonado were the engineer Jorge Ruz Zúñiga, the student Nilson Vallejos Aguilera, the Brazilian José Nobrega Araujo y an unidentified common criminal. Nobrega also survived the shooting. Ruz (protocol 2801) entered the morgue as a John Doe and his remains were recently identified in Patio 29. Vallejos (protocol 2799) also entered the morgue. The alleged common criminal executed with them could correspond to the NN who entered the morgue with protocol 2800 on the same day and time as Ruz and Vallejos, all referred by the Second Military Prosecutor’s Office.
 Declaration of Fernando Guarello Zegers before the Twentieth Criminal Court in case 16.805 for the aggravated homicide of Enrique Ropert Contreras filed in 1987.
 Enrique Ropert Gallet was transferred from the National Stadium to the Public Prison and expelled to France in 1974.
- Investigation Overview: The Bureaucracy of Death – Executions in Chile 1973
- Inside the Instituto Médico Legal (I): Bodies at dawn
- Inside the Instituto Médico Legal (II): “Cursory autopsies”
- Inside the Instituto Médico Legal (III): From the morgue to the cemetery
- Political Executions: 150 new cases?
- Crossed identities and bodies without names at the Registro Civil
- The black hole of the military prosecutors’ offices
- Military Courts: Execute first, judge second
- Wartime Tribunals: Absolute authority
- The silence of the cemetery
- The strange case of the two Luis Curivils
- Victor Jara and Littré Quiroga
- Bodies floating in the Mapocho River
- Allende suicide: Forensic reports July 19, 2011