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(Jan. 11, 2006) At least four former Colonia Dignidad members confidentially testified last week to Judge Jorge Zepeda, the investigating judge in the Colonia Dignidad human rights case, that a Chilean military squad assassinated a group of political prisoners and later buried their bodies in the German enclave in the fall of 1973.

The testimonies confirm the long-suspected alliance between the former Colonia Dignidad hierarchy and the Directorate of National Intelligence (DINA), Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s secret police agency that has been blamed for thousands of deaths, disappearances and torture cases during the initial years of his 17-year military regime.

In their testimony, the former Dignidad members stated that between October and November of 1973 a group of ten Army soldiers shot 34 political prisoners in the Colonia Dignidad area.

Investigators believe the bodies of these “disappeared” were then buried in the Colonia Dignidad compound. The corpses were most likely later exhumed and burned sometime in 1978 in an effort to dispose of all physical evidence.

The German colony members also confirmed a second shooting of two men in 1974. Judge Zepeda had already received earlier reports of these deaths through the confessions of several DINA agents.

This 1974 shooting coincides with the disappearance of Hernán Sarmiento Sabater and Aroldo Vivian Laurie Luengo from Parral, who were arrested by police and subsequently never heard from again.

Forensic experts last week successfully uncovered what is believed to be a former grave site, and while no bones or human material were recovered from the site, the specialists believe the grave once held at least 20 bodies (ST, Jan. 4).

Colonia Dignidad was a right-wing religious compound, settled by German immigrants in 1961 near Parral, in southern Chile, and led by Paul Schäfer. Schäfer at the time was fleeing German justice, accused of pedophilia; but his close relationship with right wing Chilean political leaders, especially after Pinochet’s rise to power, prevented any further investigation into these crimes.

Pedophilia charges were finally brought against Schäfer in Chile in 1997, by parents of local children who had been made part of the community, and Schäfer then went underground. He was arrested in March, 2005, in Argentina and then extradited to Chile. Schäfer remains in police custody on charges of serial child molestation at the compound (ST, Oct. 5, 2005) and for human rights violations of political prisoner taken to Colonia Dignidad by Pinochet-era secret police.

By Jackie Hailey (

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