Chandra Sriram’s Fieldwork in Chile

Posted by: Elizabeth Rhoads

20th August 2014

Chandra Lekha Sriram’s field research in Chile


In July 2014, Chandra Sriram conducted research and interviews in Santiago for the TJDI project. She interviewed a range of lawyers and advocates as well as figures active in government and civil society during Chile’s dictatorship and early transitional period, along with scholars.

While many of the findings are only preliminary, pending further analysis and clearance for publication, a number of observations are of note.  First, there is a vibrant debate about the legacy of transitional justice measures taken during the 1990s for contemporary human rights advocacy.  Many interviewees raised concerns that the emphasis of advocates on abuses committed during the dictatorship had created a truncated understanding (both amongst human rights advocates and within the wider society) of what constituted human rights abuses, to the exclusion of abuses committed by the new democracy, or against groups other than left-wing opposition.  This view was however not universally shared, and advocates shared the view that a range of transitional justice initiatives ranging from commissions of inquiry to prosecutions had created an enabling environment for discussions of human rights.

Second, many interviewees observed that the security forces remained relatively unreformed throughout the early transition, given that Pinochet remained head of the army and subsequently senator-for-life, and attributed subsequent reforms to individual leadership rather than a systematic change or the effects of transitional justice mechanism. Third, many emphasized that while the judiciary had failed to intervene in the abuses of the dictatorship, this was not as in many countries due to the corruption or incapacity of the judiciary but rather its conservatism.  This has abated somewhat, although the source of change is the subject of some debate.


Front entrance of the Museo de la memoria y derechos humanos in Santiago, Chile.


A memorial at the General Cemetery for the detained, disappeared, and politically executed victims of the military dictatorship from 11 September 1973 – 10 March 1990.


A plaque at what is now the Peace Park (Parque por la Paz) and formerly Villa Grimaldi.