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Last Updated: Monday, 29 November, 2004, 07:26 GMT
Chile torture victims win payout
Gen Pinochet in a file photo from 1975
Pinochet was president of Chile from 1974 to 1990
The Chilean government has offered lifelong pensions to more than 28,000 people tortured by agents of Gen Augusto Pinochet's military government.

President Ricardo Lagos made the offer as an official report was published on the internet detailing abuses committed between 1973 and 1990.

Mr Lagos said the report, based on survivors' testimonies, proved that torture had been state policy.

The document says the victims included some 3,400 women and even children.

It lists 18 major types of torture, including suffocation, electric shocks and repeated beatings.

Many of the crimes were carried out by the Chilean army and police.

How can we explain such horror? I do not have an answer
Ricardo Lagos
Chilean president

Mr Lagos said: "The report makes us face an inescapable reality - political imprisonment and torture constituted an institutional practice of the state, which is absolutely unacceptable and alien to Chile's historical tradition."

He said many thousands had suffered in silence but had finally come forward to tell their story.

He said nothing could make up for what the victims had suffered - but he said he would ask Congress to approve pensions worth about $190 a month.

This figure represents about 93% of the Chilean minimum wage.

Gen Pinochet has never faced trial. But a Chilean judge is due to decide in the next two weeks if he is mentally fit to defend himself against allegations of human rights abuses.

'Old wounds'

There has been no reaction from the general himself to the publication of the report by the National Commission on Political Imprisonment and Torture.

However, his former spokesman, Gen Guillermo Garin, told the BBC World Service's World Today programme: "The investigation has failed to prove people were really tortured.

"This issue is now being exploited for political purposes, and will simply reopen old wounds that have already healed."

The document says many victims were arrested from their homes in the middle of the night and taken to one of 800 detention centres.

1973: Leads coup against President Salvador Allende
1988: Loses plebiscite on rule
1990: Steps down as president
1998: Retires as army commander-in-chief. Arrested in UK at Spain's request
2000: Allowed to return to Chile
2004: Supreme Court strips his legal immunity

It says one favourite tactic was to force detainees to watch other prisoners being tortured or even killed.

Some 12% of the torture victims were women and almost all of them said they had suffered sexual abuse.

The victims included children and 88 of those detained were 12 years or younger.

The report concluded that aside from broken bones and injuries, most of the suffering was psychological.

The personal files of the torture victims will remain secret for the next 50 years unless individuals choose to release them.

Earlier this month, the head of the Chilean army, Gen Juan Emilio Cheyre, accepted institutional responsibility for past abuses.

See President Lagos address the Chilean people

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