More than two decades after Chile's return to democracy, and eight years after the Colonia Dignidad ceased to exist in its original form, the darkest parts of the gruesome German settlement in rural Southern Chile have yet to come to light.
Allegedly, the controversial German colony was one of the main torture and extermination camps of the Pinochet dictatorship, and more than 100 political prisoners were likely killed there. In addition, it has been alleged that members of the settlement were mistreated with electroshocks and psychotropics, and the leader of the settlement Paul Schäfer has been convicted of sexually abusing the children living there.
The colony's participation in large scale arms production and trade have been proven, and even experiments with chemical and bacterial weapons are said to be part of the criminal activities of the German settlement. A comprehensive criminal investigation of these crimes, however, has so far not taken place. The judiciaries of both countries, Chile and Germany, have to fulfil their obligations to investigate and prosecute, and these governments must also strongly support the accountability process. The time for truth and justice is long overdue.
When the ECCHR learned in summer 2011, that Hartmut Hopp, the former head of the hospital and “representative for external affairs/foreign minister” of the Colonia Dignidad, fled Chile and returned to Germany, it filed a criminal complaint and put German law enforcement authorities on notice. Hopp fled from the Chilean justice system, to avoid an impending final conviction against him and five others for their responsibility in rape and sexual abuse of children - which came in January - imposing five to eleven year prison sentences. Wanted by Interpol, only Germany could provide a safe haven for Hopp, because it does not extradite its own citizens. However, only a week after ECCHR's complaint, the local prosecutor in the German town of Krefeld, opened a formal investigation against Hopp.
Although some cases of sexual abuse of children, abuse of pharmaceutics, and also the disappearances of opponents to the Pinochet regime in the 1970s, are already under investigation today, accessing witnesses in Chile is difficult and time-consuming.