Statement on the 50 years of Secrecy over the Truth Commission Archive in Chile

The Archivists, with historians and many others with archival vocation, want to express our disapproval to the consolidation of the secrecy for 50 years of the Archive produced by the National Commission on Political Imprisonment and Torture (known as Valech Commission)

On the 31 of August 2016 the Chilean Chamber of Deputies rejected a bill aimed to end the secret of 50 years, in order to have new fundamental background for judicial investigations.

As professionals and users of Archives, we are convinced that in order to move forward in truth and justice, the Judiciary must be given access to Archives linked to human rights violations. We know that the secret is not related to the international standards on access to information linked to violations of human rights, in which the right to truth is more important and is over any reasons for confidentiality that might be defended.

This Archive, that was arbitrarily declared as secret for 50 years during the government of President Ricardo Lagos in 2004, contains the documents generated and collected by the Commission, and the statements and testimonies of people who suffered political imprisonment and torture during the dictatorship, and they were not consulted about the secret when submitting their information. The secret has been publicly justified by the political power on the grounds of protecting the honor and/or private life of the victims, however, the victims themselves are requesting the opening in order to know the truth about violations of human rights, the identity of the perpetrators, the facts and the circumstances. This is a right that should be guaranteed by the State, which is legally obliged to investigate crimes against humanity and for doing it, Archives are fundamental proves.

An archival policy must be formulated, establishing mechanisms to allow access to archives linked to violations of human rights and, if necessary, protect sensitive information that could affect the victims, under public and transparent criteria. Also, there must be an institution with specific attributions and responsibilities for their safekeeping, preservation and access.

As archivists and archives users, we believe that the State should take concrete actions with the Archives produced as a result of Truth Commissions in our country, as well as any archive related to human rights violations.

The custody of the archives of the Valech Commission, which today is under the responsibility of the National Institute of Human Rights and physically are in a deposit of Museum of Memory and Human Rights, is not inserted into any archival policy about archives linked to human rights violations in Chile.

The culture of secrecy in the State is a legacy of the dictatorship that must be eradicated. The State must commit to boost actions to allow open all available archives containing information about violations of human rights, such as the archives of Truth Commissions, and those that were built by the intelligence agencies of the civic-military dictatorship as the archive of Colonia Dignidad.

After 12 years since the establishment of the secrecy of the Archives of the Valech Commission, the undersigned disapprove its perpetuation and consolidation.

September, 2016

To sign this statement, please contact us at declaracionvalech@gmail.com