Chile, Truth Commissions

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Chile, Truth Commissions

The National Commission for Truth and Reconciliation (TRC) was established in April 1990, with a nine-month mandate to produce a report on the human rights violations (HRV) under military rule (1973–1990) that resulted in death or disappearance of civilian and to recommend reparations and reforms to guarantee respect for HR. The TRC was a vehicle for political and moral—not criminal—justice, and lacked powers of subpoena.

The nonpartisan TRC was composed of eight members of varying political persuasions. It received more than four thousand testimonies and made about two thousand official requests for information from state institutions, receiving responses in about 80 percent of cases. The bulk of information came from the archives of human rights organizations (HROs) and of the Vicariate of Solidarity. The TRC Report was released in February 1991 by the president in a nationally televised ceremony and became available in the form of serialized supplements. It established that the armed forces had been institutionally responsible for 2,115 deaths and that 641 people had died as a result of terrorist actions.

The public reception of the report was very positive, with the strongest support coming from HROs and the church. Victims' organizations were somewhat critical because the report did not include all violations, and the names of violators were not published. The political right, unable to deny the facts, was obliged to resort to criticism of the historical interpretation of events leading to HRV. None of the branches of the armed forces apologized, all confirmed the existence of the "state of war" dismissed by the report, and all reaffirmed their commitment to the military coup and regime. No sector made an attempt to disprove the facts contained in the report.

See alsoChile: The Twentieth Century; Chile, Organizations: Vicariate of Solidarity; Truth Commissions.


Barahona de Brito, Alexandra. Human Rights and Democratization in Latin America: Uruguay and Chile. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Brett, Sebastian. Chile, a Time of Reckoning: Human Rights and the Judiciary. Geneva: International Committee of Jurists, 1992.

Brown, Cynthia G. Human Rights and the "Politics of Agreement": Chile during President Aylwin's First Year. New York: Americas Watch, 1991.

Comisión Nacional de la Verdad y la Reconciliación. Informe de la Comisión Nacional de la Verdad y la Reconciliación. Santiago: Ornitorrinco, 1991.

Correa Sutil, Jorge. "Dealing with Past Human Rights Violations: The Chilean Case after Dictatorship." Notre Dame Law Review 67, no. 5 (1992): 1455-1485.

Garretón, Manuel Antonio. "Human Rights and Processes of Democratization." Journal of Latin American Studies 26, no. 1 (1994): 221-234.

Human Rights Watch. Chile: The Struggle for Truth and Justice for Past Human Rights Violations. New York: Human Rights Watch, 1992.

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Report of the Chilean National Commission on Truth and Reconciliation. U.S. Institute for Peace. Truth Commissions Digital Collection. Available from

Zalaquett, José. The Ethics of Responsibility: Human Rights: Truth and Reconciliation in Chile. Issues on Human Rights Paper 2. Washington DC: Washington Office on Latin America, 1991.

                         Alexandra Barahona de Brito