The following is taken from Chile: Evidence of torture: an Amnesty International report, London (Amnesty International Publications) 1983, pp. 35-37.


Case No. 4


Personal details

She is 19. Before her arrest she was training to be a social worker. Since her release she has been unemployed. She is unmarried. The man she lived with before her arrest is now in prison and she lives with her uncle.

State of health before arrest

She was in good health.

Time and place of arrest and detention

She was arrested in Santiago in the first quarter of 1981. No arrest-warrant was shown. She was taken to the CNI centre in the city and held there until her release 19 days later.

Duration of alleged torture

She claimed that while she was at the CNI centre she was tortured on 17 days, on the last three of which the torture was exclusively psychological.

Interrogation and torture

Her account of events was as follows:

During interrogation she was slapped all over the body and punched in the face, breasts and abdomen. She was kicked on the buttocks and backs of the thighs, usually while lying down. On one occasion when she was in her cell an interrogator seized her hair and banged the back and right side of her head against the wall. She did not lose consciousness. She was electrically tortured. She was stretched out on a metal bed with hands and feet bound. She was given shocks on the temples, chest and heel. A metal object was applied to her vaginal labia and she was electrically tortured there, but the device was not forced inside.

On about the eighth day she was sexually tortured. She was stripped naked and her blind-fold was removed. She was made to lie on the floor then kicked and raped by four men, one of whom subjected her to fellatio. This type of torture lasted about an hour. They also threatened to violate her with a dog and to lock her in a room with rats.

She was told the man she had been living with had been killed. She was then taken into a room where a corpse lay with its face covered and told it was this man. She knew it was not however, as the body's height and build were different from his. The corpse had been split open down the middle and there were wounds on the abdomen. It was beginning to decompose, and she was forced to lie right by it facing it. At one stage the towel was removed from its decomposing face.

On five occasions she was taken into a small, very hot room and left there for a few minutes. She had a burning feeling all over but did not think she actually was burned.

She was taken into a room full of rats, but managed to jump up on a bed and so escaped from them. She was threatened: the interrogators said they would kill her, the man she had been living with and her parents. She was also insulted and called a whore.

On each of the last five days of her imprisonment a "friendly" interrogator visited her. He was very fatherly and asked her about her friendships and her life history. He repeatedly assured her (almost hypnotizing her in the process) that she had been very well treated.

She was partially deprived of sleep for the first 14 days, getting only a few hours' sleep between each interrogation session. She was held incommunicado throughout her 19 days at the CNI centre. She was blindfold all the time except when in her cell, when being sexually tortured and when confronted with the corpse. She was naked during several of the torture sessions; the rest of the time she wore overalls and zapatillas.

She was handcuffed all the time (including when she ate) except when she went to the toilet. The food was adequate. The day after her arrival at the CNI centre, she was photographed in her cell, which was about 3m by 2m and contained a concrete bunk, blankets and a pillow.

Medical examination and/or attention during detention

On arrival at the CNI centre she was examined by a man, probably, she thought, a doctor. The examination included taking her pulse and blood pressure. She was examined again before release.

After every torture session she was medically examined and her pulse and blood pressure were taken.

The "friendly" interrogator arranged for a doctor to examine her. The doctor said she had caught cold, said she should have more blankets and gave her some tablets.

Medical personnel involved in torture

Before she was sexually tortured she was injected with an unknown substance in the right cubital fossa. (She could not tell who gave her the injection.) She was also injected in the right shoulder.

Early symptoms described

Her recollection of the first 14 days at the CNI centre was hazy as she had partially lost her sense of time. All she wanted to do was die, and she asked them to kill her rather than keep torturing her. She tried to commit suicide. She fainted several times while being tortured, then recovered consciousness in her cell. She had pains all over her body after being beaten and electrically tortured. She had headaches and vomited (she said there was blood in the vomit). After torture she could not walk very well and her arms, legs and hands were swollen. This condition lasted for about a month. The skin on her right buttock and the outside of her thigh was discoloured but the discolouration faded quite fast. Apart from that she had no marks on her body.

After her release she lost her appetite and her upper abdomen ached after eating; and for some time after release she felt as though she were sleep-walking. She could not weep even though she was miserable. She felt utterly indifferent to everything and wanted to be left alone. She was bothered by noise and light, which gave her a headache. She often lay awake at night; at other times she had nightmares.

She lost 13kg while in detention. (After release she went to a doctor because she was aching all over, especially her back and left knee, and because of a vaginal discharge and irritation. She was treated for a pelvic inflammation disease and urinary tract infection.)

She did not menstruate for the first three months after release and since then has done so somewhat irregularly, her periods being heavier and much more painful than before. Since her release, she has had headaches, especially at the back of the head and around the temples. She went to an optician who told her she needed spectacles. Probably, however, this visual defect is not of recent origin.

For a short time after release she had respiratory difficulties: she coughed and expectorated and had spells of whistling and gasping when trying to breathe.

Towards the end of her time at the CNI centre she could no longer recall what had happened to her and was not sure whether she had been hypnotized. This loss of memory persisted even after she had been released. She wanted to be alone. Her sleep was disturbed by nightmares; she was afraid and had difficulty falling asleep. Later she went to a psychiatrist and had group therapy. In mid-1981 she broke down during a session with her psychiatrist; then she began to remember what had happened to her at the CNI centre. She had a traumatic experience and spent 15 days in a psychiatric hospital. Gradually she began to remember everything that had occurred at the CNI centre.

After leaving hospital she was in a rehabilitation centre for a week, then visited her parents. On several occasions she has behaved as though she were being tortured-has cried, screamed and flung herself about. This last occurred early in 1982. She has been treated with medication.

Present symptoms described

Her left knee and back (around the spinal column) still ache when she moves them. She can now breathe normally again and a recent chest X-ray revealed nothing abnormal.

Recently she has had several bouts of vomiting and a heavy feeling in the stomach and acid reflux after eating. It still occasionally hurts when she urinates; however, her doctor has not found any bacteria in her urine.

Her menstrual cycle is somewhat irregular and her periods are heavier than before. She gets menstrual pain during the first three days of each period.

She gets headaches at the back of the head and around the temples. They last about two hours and are bad enough to make her lie down. She has difficulty reading and can do so only for about half an hour at a time without getting a headache. She cannot concentrate for long stretches, and is apt to get restless and feel cooped up. She feels different from how she was before she was arrested and likes to be left on her own.

She suffers from insomnia and awakens easily. She feels more withdrawn and nervous. She still sees a psychiatrist, who has treated her with chlorpromazine, imipramine and sleeping tablets.

Clinical examination (nearly 14 months after the alleged torture)

She seemed somewhat tense and melancholy but was cooperative. In the abdominal region there was tenderness in the upper epigastrium and in both iliac fossae. (A gynaecological examination was not carried out.) There was tenderness over the spinal process of thoracic vertebrae II, III, VIII, IX and X.


She said her memory was impaired for about four months and she could not remember certain things she has now said happened to her at the CNI centre.

There are several plausible psychiatric explanations for this. She may be suffering from a reactive psychosis, as is suggested by her loss of time sense, low state of mind plus suicidal thoughts and the fact that she has clearly experienced sufficient emotional trauma to justify such a diagnosis. Or she may have been the victim of a form of hypnotic suggestion, leading her to "forget" what the authorities had done to her and to accept their views totally. Or else her condition may constitute a type of defence mechanism involving a denial of what she went through. Most likely, however, it is a combination of all three.

The medical delegates found complete consistency between the torture alleged and the symptoms described. The findings of their examination, carried out nearly 14 months after the alleged torture, were consistent also with the symptoms described.