Following a comprehensive review, the UN Committee against Torture called on the government of Chile to support victims of torture by improving existing rehabilitation services through increased resources, capacity building and services.
Faces of victims during the Chilean dictatorship (1973 – 1990). By CARLOS TEIXIDOR CADENAS - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=57041714
During its military dictatorship, hundreds of thousands of Chileans were tortured, executed, imprisoned, sent to concentration camps or forced into exile. Many victims continue to suffer grave physical, psychological and social consequences today. Victims have shorter life expectancy, often suffer from depression, anxiety or PTSD, and struggle to find work to sustain themselves and their families.
For over 30 years, Chilean IRCT member centre, CINTRAS, has helped victims of past and present-day torture to rebuild their lives. They do this by providing a tailored assistance to survivors including psychological counselling, social support and medical treatment.
In an effort to get the Chilean government to take more responsibility for providing rehabilitation support to torture victims, CINTRAS briefed the UN Committee against Torture to ensure that the experiences and needs of victims were adequately addressed in its review of Chile. Based on data collected from their clients, CINTRAS showed that more than two-thirds of its clients have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and are therefore in need of appropriate and specialised rehabilitation. CINTRAS stressed to the Committee that, although the state had implemented a national rehabilitation programme (known as PRAIS), there was a lack of adequate resources, excessive staff rotations and an absence of specialised trainings for medical professionals.
“Our clients tell us that they feel let down by the State,” said Jose Miguel Guzman, Executive Director of CINTRAS. “Repeatedly having to recount traumatic experiences to potentially untrained staff who lack the expertise to treat them means that many of our clients continue to suffer. That’s why the emphasis on rehabilitation is so important in the Committee’s recommendations”.
Based on CINTRAS’ information, the Committee extensively questioned the Chilean delegation on what could be done to improve its support to victims of torture and concluded by issuing detailed recommendations, which provide a roadmap for better support in the years to come.
In its Concluding Observations, the Committee recommended that Chile:
- Enact concrete measures to increase funding and services of the national rehabilitation programme (known as PRAIS) as well as provide specialised training in torture trauma to all those involved in the provision of services.
- Ensure that victims can seek adequate compensation through judicial mechanisms for torture they experienced during the dictatorship.
- Implement a system of monitoring and evaluation of its rehabilitation programme and systematically collect data on the number of victims and their specific rehabilitation needs.
- Ensure that the Comprehensive Health Care and Reparation Program has duly trained specialized personnel and the necessary material resources for its proper functioning, and consider the expansion of its benefits and services.
- Repeal the amnesty law of 1978.
- Ensure that all medical personnel working on complaints of torture are trained in the Istanbul Protocol to guarantee that allegations of torture are effectively investigated.
“We are pleased to see that the Chilean government is willing to engage in constructive dialogue with international experts and local partners to improve the existing rehabilitation programme,” said Asger Kjaerum, Director of Advocacy of the IRCT. “Given how urgent this is for the individual victims, we urge the government to make this issue a priority and to take immediate practical steps to implementing these recommendations”