Chilean Bishops Issue Report on "Missing" Persons

Initiative Is Part of Effort for Reconciliation

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SANTIAGO, Chile, JAN. 6, 2001 ( Military Bishop Pablo Lizama and Bishop Camilo Vial, secretary of the Chilean Episcopal Conference, yesterday presented a report yesterday on the destiny of individuals who were arrested and disappeared during the rule of General Augusto Pinochet.

Bishop Vial handed over to President Ricardo Lagos 38 reports written by the Church, addressing the possible fate of arrested persons who disappeared following the military coup d´etat of September 11, 1973.

The data was gathered thanks to information given to priests and bishops under total discretion. According to Bishop Vial, the facts might help to discover where the bodies of some of the «missing» have been buried.

After presenting the documentation, the secretary of the Chilean Episcopate encouraged family members of the «missing» to trust in Chilean justice and said that «national reconciliation will be achieved with truth, justice, forgiveness, and reparation.»

For his part, Bishop Lezama presented another report on the missing, prepared by the Armed Forces and Policemen.

The search for the bodies was part of the agreement reached at the Table of Dialogue on Human Rights established in August 1998 at the initiative of President Eduardo Frei´s government, which for the first time brought together military men and lawyers to discuss human rights. Members of the victim´s families, however, refused to participate.

The commitments agreed at the time were formulated in a law that established January 6, 2001 as the final date to compile data that would make it possible to locate the remains of the victims. The law itself guaranteed the anonymity of informants.

Bishop Lizama described the investigation carried out as a «very serious effort» on the part of all those involved, and said that it was now up to the Chilean President to evaluate the usefulness of the data as the law requires.

«We are not going to comment on the case; it is a confidential topic that the President will have to evaluate. He will decide what information is useful,» the Bishop clarified.

It was expected today, Saturday, that Chilean President, Ricardo Lagos, would pass these reports on to the Justice Department, along with the results of the research carried out by the Evangelical Church, Jewish associations, and Freemasons.

According to the most optimistic estimates, the information gathered will clarify the end of some 400 people, out of a total of 1,192 who disappeared, although some maintain that no more than 200 will be found.

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