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CHILE: Repressive Crimes Haunt Colonia Dignidad

Gustavo Gonzalez

SANTIAGO, Aug 11 1997 (IPS) - Fugitive leader of Colonia Dignidad – a colony of German emigres – Paul Schafer, taught the police torture techniques claimed a doctor held prisoner here under the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet (1973-90).

Psychiatrist Luis Peebles told his story to national daily “La Nacion” after the Supreme Court ordered special judge Hernan Gonzalez to investigate the fate of 112 political prisoners who allegedly disappeared in Colonia Dignidad.

Gonzalez is currently handling the prosecution of Schafer on charges of sexual abuse against children and physical abuse against other individuals.

Schafer, a 76 year-old former nazi officer was the main leader of a 17,000 km enclave of German emigres some 350 km south of Santiago for years since the Second World War.

The extension of the magistrate’s task to investigate human rights accusations added to Schafer’s list of crimes, and he was also criticised for creating a sect which operates “as a state within the Chilean state.”

The tough and arbitrary rules of the lifestyle established in the colony was denounced yet again recently by 24 year-old German, Tobias Muller, who fled from the enclave with help from Chilean 18 year-old Zalo Luna on July 26.

Zalo and Muller, speaking from safety in Germany, said Schafer, a fugitive from Chilean justice since late 1996, must be hiding out in underground bunkers built hidden under forests in the colony.

Muller told German magazine “Der Spiegel” the numerous searches for Schafer had failed up until now because he was always tipped off by the police chiefs of Parral, the town closest to the colony.

This statement was rejected by Interior Minister Carlos Figueroa, who said the search operations were exclusively ordered by Judge Gonzalez without the knowledge of either the government or the police.

Gonzalez said in Parral it was unlikely his orders could have filtered down to the directors of the German enclave, while the political media insisted on the need to dismantle the colony’s “protection network.”

Senator Sergio Bitar, president of the Pro-Democracy Party, proposed a permanent police commission be created to search for Schafer until he is rooted out.

Right-wing senator Hernan Larrain, of the Independent Democratic Union, a constant defender of the colony, said the German ruler’s refusal to present himself before the judge was “disrespectful of Chilean justice.”

Larrain insisted the accusations against Schafer did not detract from the “good works” of the colony, and expressed skepticism over the claims of forced disappearances, saying evidence would be needed to prove this.

Schafer’s collaboration with the National Investigations Department (DINA), Pinochet’s repressive police, was denounced internationally from the earliest years of the military regime installed following the 1973 coup.

However, the colony had never been directly investigated for its supposed use as a torture centre, where left-wing activists arrested by the dictatorship’s secret police allegedly disappeared.

Political prisoners who allegedly disappeared in Dignidad included Socialist deputy, Carlos lorca, said deputy Camilo Escalona – the current party leader, who brought the case before the Supreme Court.

Five years ago, a judge found military and police officers in Parral guilty of the abduction of 12 people later taken to the colony, but the case was closed under the 1978 amnesty ruling.

Peebles, who led the Revolutionary Left Movement in Concepcion, 515 km south of Santiago, said he was taken to Dignidad in 1975 by then Colonel Pedro Espinoza, DINA second in command.

The doctor identified Schafer as the man who tortured him from film and photograph evidence shown him in Germany after he was exiled having passed through several prison camps.

The abuses carried out by the leader of Colonia Dignidad were characterised by their cruelty and were carried out in front of DINA agents who were thus trained in torture methods.

Peebles, as a psychiatrist, classed Schafer as a sexually deviant sadist, who derives excitement from humilliating his victims with physical and psychological mistreatment.

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