Gauck urged to help trace ′Dignidad′ victims | News | DW | 12.07.2016
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Gauck urged to help trace 'Dignidad' victims

German President Joachim Gauck has begun a visit to Chile amid appeals to help trace the fate of dissidents who vanished during the country's 1973 to 1990 dictatorship. German diplomats were accused of doing too little.

Germany's head of state, known for his human rights agenda, was due Tuesday to hold talks with Chilean President Michelle Bachelet before a meeting Wednesday with campaigners still seeking the truth about "Colonia Dignidad."

The authoritarian German-emigrant enclave was established in 1961, 400 kilometers (250 miles) southeast of Chile's capital, Santiago. The sect's founder Paul Schäfer died in 2010 while serving a 20-year jail term for systematic child abuse.

A settlement still remains, now known as "Villa Baviera."

As Gauck (pictured center above) arrived late on Monday, campaigners made public a criminal complaint alleging that Chile's dictatorship-era army ran "extermination commandoes" inside the enclave with collaboration of Dignidad's leadership and that the remains of at least 100 political prisoners were buried illegally.

Indictment drafted

The indictment, demanding $100 million in compensation from the Chilean nation, is to be filed once Chile's supreme court confirms that the sect was an illegal association.

Margarita Romero, the chairperson of a Chilean victims' and human rights group, said she would urged Gauck and Bachelet to press for the recovery of documents from the enclave that might contain indications on the fate of those who disappeared.

Accompanying Gauck on the flight to Chile was Florian Gallenberger, the director of the recently released cinema film "Colonia Dignidad." The film was due to be shown to surviving family members and human rights activists.

Late admission of inaction

In late April, the German Foreign Office made public its files on the enclave. Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier of the center-left Social Democrats said during the dictatorship German diplomats had done too little to help victims.

In an interview with the Chilean newspaper "El Mercurio," published Sunday, Gauck highlighted the role of social movements and civil society across South America.

Its long-established as well as new governments would be judged on how much they fostered participative democracy, irrespective of their political leanings, Gauck said.

On Thursday, Gauck is due to travel on from Chile to Uruguay.

ipj/rc (dpa, AP)

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