Human Rights Observatory


On 27 April 2011 the Early Release Commission (Comisión de Libertad Condicional) of the Santiago Appeals Court recommended the concession of conditional early release to 6 former military officers detained in Santiago’s Punta Peuco or Cordillera military facilities for crimes related to dictatorship-era human rights violations.  Such recommendations need to be approved by the Justice Minister or his designated regional representative (known as the ‘Seremi de Justicia’), who has the power to confirm or deny the definitive concession of the benefit.  Despite repeated attempts by the Observatory to confirm the details and timings laid down for this procedure via the official source of the Human Rights Programme of the Ministry of the Interior, we have not yet received official confirmation of the present status of these particular  recommendations.  However, national daily newspaper La Segunda reported in its 14 June edition that 2 of the 6 applications from human rights case prisoners had been approved and that accordingly, former police officers Luis Romo Morales and Primitivo Campos Castro had been released from custody almost a month earlier, in mid May.

The two were serving the following sentences:

1. Primitivo Castro Campos

Sentenced in 2007 to 5 years for the aggravated kidnap (forced disappearance) of Carlos Fuentealba Herrera.  Without this benefit, his projected release date would have been 24/10/2012.

2. Luis Romo Morales

Sentenced in 2007 to 5 years 1 day for the aggravated kidnap (forced disappearance) of José Lorenzo Cofré Obadilla and Carlos Montecinos Urra. Already enjoyed the benefit of Sunday parole.  Without this benefit, his projected release date would have been 17/4/2012.

It should be noted that this benefit, in theory open to any prisoner who has completed more than half their initial sentence,* does not reduce the total sentence to be served but does allow for a remaining portion of it to be served in a non-custodial setting.  Beneficiaries must comply with certain conditions including residence at an address approved by the court and submission to periodic reviews of conduct by the Conduct Review Board (Tribunal de Conducta) of the same penitentiary where they were previously serving their custodial sentence.

* Or more than two-thirds in the case of certain serious offences including aggravated homicide.

For more details on the benefit and its conditions, see the document ‘Libertad Condicional’ (Spanish only) on our ).  Early Release Commissions sit twice a year to consider recommendations made by the Conduct Review Board of each prison in their jurisdiction.  The boards in turn maintain a file on each prisoner and can recommend early release for those who meet the qualifying conditions and in the judgement of the review board are “rehabilitated and fit for wider society” (‘rehabilitado(s) para la vida social’).  On this particular occasion the commission that oversees the Santiago area received 1,822 applications from 8 prisons, recommending 198 of them (10.8%) for positive consideration by the regional Seremi.

The four individuals imprisoned for human rights-related offences whose applications appear to have been turned down at the final stage are:

1. Carlos López Tapia – Cordillera military prison

Sentenced to 5 years 1 day for the aggravated kidnapping (forced disappearance) of Julia Retamal Sepúlveda, and to a 3-year suspended sentence for the aggravated kidnapping of de Enrique Jeria Silva, Darío Francisco Miranda Godoy and Jorge Gerardo Solovera Gallardo.

2. Víctor Pinto Pérez – Cordillera military prison

Sentenced to 8 years for the aggravated homicide of Tucapel Jiménez.

3. Alejandro Molina Cisternas – Punta Peuco military prison

Sentenced to 5 years 1 day for the aggravated kidnapping of Mario Edrulfo Carrasco Díaz and  Víctor Olea Alegría.

4. Miguel Soto Duarte – Punta Peuco

Sentenced to 5 years for the aggravated homicide of Paulina Aguirre Tobar

As far as we have been able to establish, the concession of this benefit does not require or allow the intervention of the original sentencing magistrate nor of parties to the case that gave rise to the original sentence.  However, according to the text of the benefit, the four individuals who were turned down on this occasion are barred from reapplying until two years have elapsed.  In each of the present cases, the original sentence will in practice have expired before this period is up.  Accordingly each should now complete their full original sentences in jail.

This development brings to 3 the total number of prisoners sentenced for human rights-related crimes and later granted early release under this particular provision.  The first, Hugo Alarcón, was freed under the same provisions in December 2010.  Three additional prisoners have also been definitively freed ahead of time since late 2009 due to the granting of a different benefit, one that does involve definitive sentence reduction.  The individuals concerned are Patricio Zamora, Juan Caniulaf and Gerardo Urrich.  See document ‘condenados por crímenes ddhh excarcelados por concesión de beneficios’ (Spanish only), available on our website.

Accordingly, once the 2 new concessions have been confirmed and applied, 6 of the full total of 75 individuals imprisoned for these crimes at some stage since the year 2000 will have been freed ahead of the date of expiry of their original sentence.   The average reduction or commutation of sentence received is 11 months per person.

Sources: Observatorio ddhh – ICSO UDP and  Chilean judicial branch official website

Appendices (Spanish only):

For more detail on these and other current prisoners click here
For a short explanation of the relevant parole terms and conditions, click here
To see a related press release by the Association of Relatives of the Disappeared, click here