Chapter Two (A.1)

1974 through August 1977

Truth Commissions Digital Collection: Reports: Chile

Colonia Dignidad

The Commission examined a vast amount of information on the alleged use of the El Lavadero estate, which belongs to the Sociedad Benefactora y Educacional Dignidad [Dignity Welfare and Educational Association], for holding and torturing prisoners during the period covered in this chapter. This estate, which is usually called Colonia Dignidad, is located in a rather remote area of the province of Parral, on the banks of the Perquilauquén River and the El Lavadero estuary near Catillo.

Several hundred people, most of them of German nationality, live at Colonia Dignidad. The Sociedad Benefactora y Educacional Dignidad is engaged in a number of farming, commercial, and philanthropic activities, including running a hospital and a school, which also receive government aid. Over the years there have been numerous incidents and public accusations about Colonia Dignidad, its activities, and its internal life. These accusations have given rise to numerous journalistic accounts, public debates, parliamentary investigations, and legal actions of various kinds. As this report was being concluded, the government's decision to withdraw the legal status of the association was made public.

It is not the Commission's role to take a stand on issues or controversies outside its mandate. However, it must examine and publish its conclusions on the accusations about Colonia Dignidad, namely that its leaders had some kind of agreement with the DINA allowing it to hold and torture prisoners there, and especially the claim that all trace was lost of some of these prisoners after their time at Colonia Dignidad. To examine this matter and draw conclusions falls within the Commission's mandate to provide information not only on the most serious human rights violations committed during this period but on the surrounding circumstances.

In examining this matter, the Commission had available the numerous personal testimonies it took, the testimonies and other proofs found in court records in Chile and the Federal Republic of Germany, other documentary information, and a vast amount of circumstantial evidence and background information. The Commission wrote to Colonia Dignidad requesting permission to visit, but its leaders wrote back refusing that request.

Having considered all the information in hand, the Commission has come to the following conclusions:

*   It has been proven that there were various ties between the DINA and Colonia Dignidad. It is a fact that from the time the DINA began to exist as the DINA Commission in November 1973, its agents used properties like Colonia Dignidad's El Lavadero estate and the properties resulting from the division of what used to be the San Manuel estate in the hinterland of Parral for DINA business, such as training its agents or for other institutional purposes. It is also a fact that the Dignidad association bought a house at Calle Ignacio Carrera Pinto (formerly Calle Unión) No. 262, which was known to have been used as a DINA facility, particularly for training a regional intelligence brigade (transaction recorded on May 24, 1974, property put in the association's name the following year, and sold in 1986). It is also known that the head of the DINA and other DINA agents visited Colonia Dignidad and seem to have had cordial relations with its leaders.

*   The Commission received a large number of statements from people who were arrested by the DINA in Santiago and who say they were taken to Colonia Dignidad at some point and held there blindfolded, and also subjected to torture. It also took testimony from people who were arrested in the area of Parral or in nearby cities and taken to Colonia Dignidad where they received similar treatment. A significant number of these statements substantiate their assertions so well and are so detailed and consistent, that when taken with other evidence, including statements by former DINA agents and even former members of Colonia Dignidad, they cannot honestly be doubted. Hence the Commission must at least conclude that a certain number of people apprehended by the DINA were really taken to Colonia Dignidad, held prisoner there for some time, and that some of them were subjected to torture, and that besides DINA agents, some of the residents there were involved in these actions.

*   The Commission likewise received specific accusations concerning prisoners who disappeared, about whom the last information is that they were being held at Colonia Dignidad (aside from those who were held there only for a brief period). Although the Commission in fact considers some of these persons to be disappeared and believes that there are indications that they may have been taken to Colonia Dignidad after their arrest, the only prisoner about whom it can in conscience affirm that he disappeared after being transferred to Colonia Dignidad is Alvaro Vallejos Villagrán.

*   The Commission has also taken into account that other sources, some of them foreign, have likewise concluded that Colonia Dignidad was at least used as a detention center for political prisoners. Among such sources are spokespersons for the government of the Federal Republic of Germany and the United Nations Ad Hoc Working Group on the Forced Disappearance of Persons. Nevertheless, the Commission has based its own conclusions on the evidence it was able to examine directly.

The house in Parral

The DINA Regional Intelligence Brigade operated out of Calle Ignacio Carrera Pinto No. 262 in the city of
Parral. Its operational or perhaps support responsibilities apparently went beyond this zone. People were also held prisoner there, but none of them are known to have been killed.