In Chile delegates from many international organisations were among those present on Wednesday (22 November) at the opening of a human rights symposium organised by the Roman Catholic Church.
In Chile delegates from many international organisations were among those present on Wednesday (22 November) at the opening of a human rights symposium organised by the Roman Catholic Church. The church in Chile has been especially critical of the government's human rights record. A recent report by a United Nations working party says there continue to be 'grave violations of human rights' in the country.
SYNOPSIS: The four-day symposium was organised by the church to discuss 'man's dignity, rights and duties in today's world'. Among the two thousand delegates attending were representatives from Amnesty International, the International Commission of Jurists and the United Nations. The UN working party's fourth annual report, published recently, did record some improvement in human rights. However it also criticised routine use of torture in interrogation, arbitrary arrests by the security forces and drastic suppression of trade union rights.
The symposium was hosted by Cardinal Raul Silva Henriquez, Archbishop of Santiago. Cardinal Silva was among church dignitaries, former politicians, and union leaders who attended another symposium in Puerto M???ntt, earlier in November. Delegates there concluded that grief and despair marked the lives of many Chileans, and that the country was rife with violence and injustice.
Relations between the Catholic hierarchy and the military government are strained. The two issues on which Church and State clash are the government's clampdown on trade unions and the hundreds of people who have been reported missing after being taken into custody by the Chilean secret service. The church's campaign comes at an embarrassing time for the government, which is beginning to acquire increasing international respectability.
General Augusto Pinochet's government has an impressive economic record, but this has been overshadowed by foreign criticisms of its internal security policies. In its defence the government cites amnesty for political prisoners granted in April, and relaxation of strict press controls. The government says that findings of the recent UN working party resulted from second-hand reports rather than its members investigating the problem themselves. Church leaders say that despite promises, the government has failed to explain even one of the hundreds of disappearances that have been brought to its notice.