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Pinochet Government Asks Court To Investigate Secretive German Colony

January 5, 1989

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) _ The government of President Augusto Pinochet has asked the Supreme Court to appoint a special judge to investigate a secretive German colony accused of human rights abuses.

Foreign Minister Hernan Felipe Errazuriz, in an unusual request, personally asked Justice Jose Maria Eyzaguirre on Wednesday to investigate Colonia Dignidad, a sprawling farm 210 miles south of Santiago.

Government sources said Errazuriz made his request after receiving an appeal from his West German colleague, Hans-Dietrich Genscher.

The sources said Genscher last week requested the Chilean government’s ″cooperation″ after lower Chilean courts turned down two similar requests filed by private Chilean lawyers.

The colony, near Parral, was established in the early 1960s by a group of West Germany Free Baptists led by Paul Schaffer, a World War II air bomber.

It has about 300 residents, most of them Germans, and has developed into a self-sufficient community with modern agricultural projects, its own hospital and a school that also serves Chilean peasants in the area.

Previous investigations by lower courts produced no results to charges the colony physically and psychologically abused its residents, and the situation has often strained relations between Chile and West Germany.

The colony has been accused by human rights organizations of abusing its members and keeping many of them against their will. Several former colony members who fled the enclave have alleged they were abused.

Organizations such as Amnesty International also claimed the colony served as a torture and execution center for the Chilean security services after the 1973 coup that brought Pinochet to power.

Colony spokesmen deny the charges, saying they are part of a smear campaign.

About a decade ago, colony leaders filed a slander suit in Frankfurt, West Germany, against the magazine Stern and the West German chapter of Amnesty International for charging the colony engaged in torture and executions.

Last August, Parral Judge Lidia Villagran inspected the colony and questioned some of its leaders and members at the request of the German court handling the suit against Stern and Amnesty International. Under questioning, Schaffer denied charges of rights abuses.

The colony is off-limits to visitors. When reporters attempted to cover Judge Villagran’s inspection, farmers in the area blocked the road to the enclave. The group, calling themselves ″Friends of Colonia Dignidad,″ photographed the reporters and argued with them.

Among officials of the Pinochet government known to have visited the enclave are Defense Minister Adm. Patricio Carvajal and Gen. Rodolfo Stange, a member of the four-man military junta and head of the national police.

It was not immmediately known when the Supreme Court would act on the government’s request.

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