Some detainees are subjected to "only" psychological [70] torture: deprivation of sleep, disorientation through the constant playing of loud music, threats against the victim's spouse or children or parents, pressure to collaborate and become paid informers, mock execution. While this kind of torture can cause psychic wounds as deep as physical mistreatment, it was relatively ignored in Chile at first, overshadowed by the physical forms of abuse. As a witness told the UN Special Rapporteur on Chile in 1979: "This is because we have become rather accustomed to living in a climate in which detention is associated with very severe and very serious ill-treatment... [W]e have very considerably extended the limits of what we consider acceptable as humane treatment."(1)

The methods of physical torture indeed command attention. A catalogue is provided by the 1978 case of Rodriguez Munoz Munoz, detained February 16-23, tortured in Villa Grimaldi. Methods used: forced to eat garbage, excrement; "dry submarine" (near-asphyxiation with a sack over head, repeated several times); "wet submarine" (head submerged in large can of oil); "silvania" (victim fastened in a chair, electrodes applied to most sensitive parts of body -- soles of feet, testicles); beaten while given electric shock; hung by the hands between two trees[71] while beaten with stick on most sensitive parts of body); "pau de arara" ("parrot perch" --hung in a twisted position from a pole, electricity applied); "parrilla" ("grill"--victim strapped to metal grill, electric shock applied). Each stage lasted about two hours, with gaps of 15-30 minutes between. After this detainee tried to escape he was knocked out, and awoke with cuts in his neck and wrists, which officials attributed to a suicide attempt. (2)

In a great many cases, physical and psychological torture both are used. One described by Chilean psychologists in a recently published article is that of a patient with the pseudonym "Cesar C."

Cesar C. was a 27-year-old political community leader with some high school education; he was married and had three children. He was arrested seven times between 1973 and 1977, each time with great violence. He was subjected to a series of tortures; being beaten all over his body for four hours at a time; simulated executions; deprivation of sleep for 48 hours; humiliation and harassment; broken teeth caused by stones put in his mouth and then hammered; witnessing his brother's torture with electric prods; and other forms of violence and humiliation. Cesar had electric shock applied to his genitals for 12 hours at a time, lost consciousness several times, and was hung by the neck; metallic objects of different sizes simulating a penis were introduced through his anus and then electric shock applied; he was partially suffocated with plastic bags and his head forced into pails of water or urine and excrement. He was forced to witness the raping of women by soldiers and trained dogs. Torture inflicted upon him resulted in brainwashing and severe disinte-[72]gration, which led him to betray two of his closest clandestine political contacts. Subsequently, his having informed on his friends constituted the core of his disturbance. Testimony was taken during the month of April 1979 as part of the treatment. Cesar requested psychological help after having been in hiding for two years.(3)

Notable in torture accounts since the mid-70s is the role of medical personnel. Doctors' collaboration with torture, also noted in Amnesty's recent report, is but one aspect of the system's sophistication; its moral implications are vast, however. In the Munoz case described above, a Dr. Fernando Briones Becerra of the Clinica London certified the victim "clinically in good health" on February 17, the day following his kidnapping and initial beating. On February 21, another doctor certified Munoz again in good health, three days after suffering the wounds in his neck and wrists. The Santiago Prison hospital on March 1 described him as polytraumatized, with possible brain damage from a blow to the head. He had convulsions, a violent headache, the neck and wrist wounds, and was suffering from anxiety.

- from: Americas Watch Committee. Chile since the Coup: Ten Years of Repression. An Americas Watch Report. New York (Americas Watch Committee) August 25, 1983, pp. 70-73. Starred notes have been converted into endnotes.


1. Special Rapporteur on Chile, Report of the Economic and Social Council, United Nations, A/34/583, November 21, 1979, p. 80.

2. Case described in Ad Hoc Group, Report to the Economic and Social Council, United Nations, A/33/331, October 25, 1978, pp. 91-98.

3. Ana Julia Cienfuegos and Cristina Monelli, "The Testimony of Political Repression as a Therapeutic Instrument," American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, January 1983, p. 48. The authors (here identified by pseudonyms) are members of a group of mental health professionals who have treated victims of torture and other abuses since 1973. The psychologist mentioned elsewhere in this section is also a member of that group.