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last updated July 25, 2007


General Information

  • Country Name: Republic of Chile
  • Type of Government: Republic
  • U.N. Membership: Since Oct. 24, 1945
  • Population: 16,284,741 (July 2007 estimate)

The World Factbook: Chile, CIA, last updated July 19, 2007

Applicable International Human Rights Instruments


On May 30, 2001, the death penalty was abolished for ordinary crimes in Chile.  Although executions are still permitted during times of war for crimes described in the Code of Military Justice, in practice, no executions have taken place since 1985. Congress passed a bill to abolish the death penalty in April 2001, and President Ricardo Lagos signed the measure into law on May 30th.  The law declared the death penalty a violation of human rights. Death sentences were commuted to life imprisonment or imprisonment for 40 years. The penal code had previously provided for execution by firing squad in cases of murder of a family member, kidnapping of or violence against children, and kidnapping of adults that resulted in the death of police officers. 

After assuming power in March of 1990, President Aylwin presented a proposal for the abolition of the death penalty, which was rejected by the Senate in December of 1990.  In January of 1992, the Senate introduced a proposal to expand capital punishment to permit executions for the murder of off-duty police officers.  In July, this expansion was rejected by the Camara de Diputacion.  President Alywin continued to make public his opposition to the death penalty, promising to make use of his discretionary powers to grant clemency in the death penalty cases presented to him.

Further attempts to abolish capital punishment were made during the following years before finally succeeding in 2001.

Methods of Execution

The method of execution used in Chile has historically been the firing squad.  See Changes in Capital Punishment Policy since 1939, Lee Emerson Deets, March - April 1948 and Chile: Abolitionist for Ordinary Crimes, CAIN.

Relevant Statistics

Augusto Pinochet took power through a military coup in 1973.  The number of executions that took place during the following year is still in question, but some estimates reach 20,000.  The Corporation for Reparation and Reconciliation reported 2,095 extrajudicial executions and deaths from torture, in addition to 1,102 disappearances, between 1973 and the end of Pinochet's regime in 1990.  According to an official Chilean government report, more than 3,000 people were killed and more than 1,000 disappeared during the seventeen years General Pinochet ruled.  See Soldier confirms Chile stadium killings, BBC News, June 27, 2000.

Current Concerns

Harsh prison conditions and ill-treatment of inmates, including minors, continue to be reported. Confrontations between police and indigenous people in the context of land disputes have taken place, resulting in the death of one person.

Compiled from:

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ratifications and Reservations, July 20, 2007.

Questions and answers about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, United Nations Association in Canada, 1998.

Abolitionist and Retentionist Countries, Amnesty International, May 23, 2007.

Amnesty International Report 2003: Chile, Amnesty International, 2003.

Amnistía International Contra la Pena de Muerte, Amnesty International, June 1, 1997.

Pena de Muerte, Amnesty International, August 21, 1992.

Minor Atrocities of the Twentieth Century, Matthew White, Twentieth Century Atlas, July 2005.

The Death Penalty Worldwide, Information Please Database, Pearson Education, 2007.

En Chile no Existirá la Pena de Muerte, El Mostrador, April 3, 2001.