Medical Group Exposes Torture in Greece and Chile Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

A team of Danish medical experts helped to substantiate allegations of the widespread use of torture by military dictatorships in Greece and Chile. The medical group contributed to the process that eliminated torture as an accepted method of behavior in Greece and that limited the practice of torture in Chile.

Significance

As part of long international campaigns to expose the torture policies of both the Greek and Chilean governments, the Danish medical group played a vital role. After public hearings in the parliament building in Copenhagen, world public opinion shifted to a more widespread awareness that what was happening in Greece and Chile was not a few minor infractions of human rights. Rather, it was revealed that systematic torture was being utilized as a matter of governmental policy in both dictatorships. Greece;human rights abuses

The impact of these findings was most clearly felt in Greece. The military government in Athens, although unconcerned about human rights, was sensitive to its increasing isolation from the rest of Europe. This was particularly a problem for the Greek dictatorship, as ongoing tensions with neighboring Turkey made European acceptance a practical matter of concern.

In addition, the Danish medical findings struck a chord with the increasingly discontented Greek population. The large number of Danish tourists who traditionally vacationed in Greece increased the findings’ importance. Tourists stayed away in significant numbers or voiced their objections to the Greek government privately during their visits. The fact that King Constantine’s wife was a Danish princess made it difficult for the Greek junta to paint outspoken Danes as “tools of Moscow.” The Danish medical group thus contributed to the process that ended the military dictatorship in Greece in the summer of 1974 and eliminated torture as an accepted method of behavior there.

In Chile, the results were not so immediately dramatic. All the same, the Danish investigations played a vital part in isolating the Pinochet regime from Europe. Because the late president Salvador Allende had been a leader of the Socialist Party who governed with the support of the Chilean communists, many conservative Europeans had at first greeted reports of torture with skepticism.

Many international campaigns were organized by European communist parties to gain freedom for political prisoners in Chile. Although these efforts played a vital part in raising awareness among the general public, the participation of the left strengthened conservative suspicions. These doubts were eroded greatly when the evidence compiled by the Danish medical group began to bolster the findings of politically neutral Amnesty International.

Although torture was not ended in Chile, a certain restraint appeared to have developed as a result of the exposé. The military dictatorship in Chile realized the damage these revelations were doing to the government’s image and attempted to limit the use of torture to specific cases. Greece;human rights abuses Chile;human rights abuses Human rights abuses;Greece Human rights abuses;Chile Torture;Greece Torture;Chile

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Amnesty International. Chile: An Amnesty International Report. London: Author, 1974. A clear, concise documentation of the human rights violations taking place in Chile in the first months after the overthrow of Allende. Without reference features.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Clogg, Richard, and George Yannopoulos, eds. Greece Under Military Rule. New York: Basic Books, 1972. A collection of essays on topics ranging from politics to culture, this work is highly recommended even though it was compiled two years before the Greek junta fell. Offers reference notes, bibliography, and index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Kaloudis, George Stergiou. Modern Greek Democracy: The End of a Long Journey? Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 2000. Comprehensive analysis of the military regimes in power from 1967 to 1974.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">O’Shaughnessy, Hugh. Pinochet: The Politics of Torture. New York: New York University Press, 2000. Fascinating account of the disturbing Pinochet regime. Index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Uribe, Armando. The Black Book of American Intervention in Chile. Boston: Beacon Press, 1975. Written by a former member of the Allende government, this work details the involvement of the United States in the destruction of democracy in Chile. Includes reference notes and an index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Valenzuela, J. Samuel, and Arturo Valenzuela. Military Rule in Chile. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986. This collection of essays covers a wide range of important areas and is useful for anyone interested in the Pinochet dictatorship. Offers reference notes and an index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Verdugo, Patricia. Chile, Pinochet, and the Caravan of Death. Translated by Marcelo Montecino. Coral Gables, Fla.: North-South Center Press, 2001. Written by a journalist whose father was murdered by the Pinochet regime, this is a highly readable, well-researched book about the atrocities that occurred under Pinochet.

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