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Ricardo Lagos Salinas was 24 years old at the time of his arrest and was married with two children. He was a member of the political committee of the Socialist Party. He was arrested on 17 June 1975 by members of the Dirección de Inteligencia Nacional (DINA), Directorate of National Intelligence. Although there are no witnesses to his arrest, it is believed that he was taken from his home in the neighbourhood of Las Rejas, Santiago, possibly at the same time as Michelle Peña Herreros.

On 24 June 1975, another member of the Socialist Party went to a house where he had previously arranged to meet Ricardo Lagos and saw a white Chevrolet car waiting nearby. He went into the house and was promptly detained by two armed men in civilian clothes. He and Ricardo Lagos were taken to the Villa Grimaldi where they were tortured with electricity and beaten. On 26 June, the witness saw Ricardo Lagos near the bathrooms and a couple of days later when he was taken to an area in Villa Grimaldi called the Tower ("La Torre"), he recognised the voice of Michelle Peña in the next-door cell. The witness was subsequently released. According to the testimony given to the National Commission for Truth and Reconciliation by Luz Arce, one time member of the Socialist Party who after torture collaborated with the security forces, she also saw Ricardo Lagos in the Villa Grimaldi and had the impression that he knew he was going to be killed.

The security forces had been searching for Ricardo Lagos from the time of the coup in September 1973. On 16 September 1973, his father, Ricardo Raúl Lagos Reyes, ex mayor of Chillán, his step mother Sonia Ojeda who was pregnant and his brother Carlos Eduardo Lagos were gunned down at their home by soldiers. In 1974, his wife and two children fled the country.

His arrest and "disappearance" took place in the context of operations by the DINA against the central committee of the Socialist Party in June and July 1975. The following people were also arrested and subsequently "disappeared": Michelle Peña Herreros, Exequiel Ponce, Mireya Rodríguez, Carlos Lorca, Modesta Carolina Wiff, Rosa Soliz Poveda and Sara Donoso Palacios.

On 3 September 1975, a recurso de amparo was submitted to the Santiago Appeals Court, which following negative responses from the authorities, was rejected by the court and transmitted to the 7th Criminal Court of Santiago. On 28th October, the court opened the investigation.

In June 1979, Ricardo Lago's case was taken up by the Special Investigating Judge (Ministro en Visita), Servando Jordán López who had been appointed by the Supreme Court to investigate cases of "disappearances" in the Santiago area. In December, the judge declared himself without jurisdiction and passed the case to the military courts. In June 1982 and without carrying out any investigations, the pre-investigative phase of the case was closed and on 16 July the case was closed. The decision was confirmed by the military appeals court on 3 May 1983

In 1978, a criminal complaint was presented by human rights lawyers against General Manuel Contreras, former director of the DINA, and other senior officials of the intelligence agency for their responsibility for the abduction and subsequent ''disappearance'' of 70 people, including that of Ricardo Lagos Salinas, between 1974 and 1976. The case was one of the most important legal actions to be taken on behalf of the ''disappeared'' and contained substantial material, including personal testimonies to back up the allegations of illegal arrests, torture and ''disappearances'' by the DINA. The DINA was formally under the authority of the military junta, but in practice, it reported solely to the orders of General Augusto Pinochet.

The complaint was originally presented to the 10th Criminal Court which declared itself without jurisdiction to continue with the case without carrying out any investigations whatsoever and passed the case to the military courts. The case was then closed pending new information. In 1983, the Military Appeals Court ruled to re-open the investigation of 35 of these cases but in November 1989 a military judge closed the proceedings on the basis of the 1978 Amnesty Law and because in the 10 years that the case had been open, it had not been possible ''to determine the responsibility of anybody'' ("determinar responsabilidad de persona alguna''). The decision was upheld by the Second Military Court on the grounds that "the penal responsibility of the people allegedly incriminated in the acts had expired" ("por encontrarse extinguida la responsabilidad penal de las personas presuntamente inculpadas en los hechos denunciados"). In 1990, the Supreme Court confirmed the closure of the cases, declaring the amnesty law to be constitutional.

The 70 cases in the original complaint were presented by human rights lawyers to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States. In 1996 it concluded that the 1978 Amnesty Law violated the American Convention on Human Rights (ACHR) ratified by Chile in August 1990 and recommended the Chilean Government adapt internal legislation to conform to the ACHR so that the human rights violations of the military government can be investigated to identify those responsible and bring them to justice.

On 9 July 2001 Judge Juan Guzmán Tapia charged five senior members of the DINA with the abduction of 12 government opponents and for illicit association. Ricardo Lagos Salinas is among the 12 cases. The accused are: Manuel Contreras, retired general and former director of the DINA, retired army general Miguel Krassnoff Marchenko, retired colonel Marcelo Moren Brito, retired army officer Basclay Zapata and civilian agent Osvaldo Romo Mena.

Ricardo Lagos' case appeared on the list of names of 180 people arrested between 1973 and 1976 submitted by the armed forces to President Lagos in January 2001. According to the information supplied, he was arrested by the DINA and died on 26 June 1975. His body was reportedly thrown into the sea near San Antonio. No information was given about where he was held prior to his death nor about the treatment he suffered.

The case is currently being investigated by the judge of the Tenth Criminal Court of Santiago, one of the judges appointed by the Supreme Court in June 2001 to look exclusively at cases of the ''disappeared''.


Source; Amnesty International – Document: AI Index: AMR 22/014/2001 dated 10 December 2001 – Titled ; CHILE - Testament to suffering and courage: the long quest for justice and truth


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