by Pascale Bonnefoy M. y John Dinges (Lea aquí el artículo original en español)
here are almost no traces of the steps taken or not taken in the Second Military Court regarding the executions of 1973. There are only the books on the “status of cases” that ArchivosChile was able to review in the offices of that court. These books are very succinct summaries of case files, some of which culminated in court martial proceedings, of surviving political prisoners.
No case file refers to an investigation of the 785 cases of violent deaths between September and December 1973 that, according to the records of the Servicio Médico Legal (SML), fell under the jurisdiction of the military prosecutors’ offices.
The files themselves from that time, according to the Army, were destroyed as a result of an arson attack in 1989. This is the version that the Army gave to the Ministry of Defense in 2003 when it was asked to provide information on the death of José Tohá in March 1974. The judge investigating that case, Jorge Zepeda, had requested information on the case from the Second Military Court, but the court replied that it did not have any. The Ministry of Defense then approached the Army.
The Army responded that “The proceedings processed by military courts during wartime were originally filed in the then School of Physical Education of the Army, most of which were destroyed as a result of an incendiary bomb attack that affected the institute on November 14, 1989.”
They added: “This fact was opportunely investigated by the Sixth Military Prosecutor’s Office of Santiago in case No. 17109-89”.
The destruction of the documents occurred during the months before the military regime handed over power to the civilian government of Patricio Aylwin in March 1990, after 17 years of dictatorship. When General Augusto Pinochet was defeated in the October 1988 plebiscite, the regime had less than a year and a half left to prepare its exit. In this context, on December 30, 1988, the military junta issued Decree-Law 18.771 which authorized the Ministry of National Defense and the Armed Forces to eliminate their archives instead of sending them to the National Archive, as was the statutory obligation for the administrative bodies of the State.
Years of files incinerated
ArchivosChile formally requested the Second Military Court to unseal the file on September 15, 2011. As of January 11, 2012, the court had not yet ruled on the request.
Neither the Carabineros nor the Investigative Police were spared from the pyromania. According to an official letter sent by Carabineros to the National Corporation for Reparation and Reconciliation, which had requested information on some thirty human rights cases, all this documentation had been “incinerated, after having served its statutory time in the archives”. The burning affected archives up to 1989.
The Investigative Police responded in a similar manner when requested by the Corporation to provide background information on the death of a villager. In their official letter, the Investigative Police state that “the Reports and Reports to the Courts corresponding to the year 1973 were incinerated, in accordance with the regulations existing at the time”.
 Since its archiving in February 1992, this case has been requested by Judge Cecilia Flores, who was investigating human rights crimes in San Bernardo (2002) and four times by the Auditor General of the Army (1996, 2000, 2003 and 2005). According to an official of the Second Military Court, more recently, different judges have also verbally requested that the case be referred to them for hearing.
- 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