Human Rights Organizations under military dictatorships in Chile, Uruguay and Argentina

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Human Rights Organizations under military dictatorships in Chile, Uruguay and Argentina

The tables below are cited as “Available from author upon request” in:

Loveman, Mara. High Risk Collective Action: Defending Human Rights in Chile, Uruguay, and ArgentinaAmerican Journal of Sociology 104[2] (1998): 477-525.

Please cite this article if you use these tables in your research. Thanks!

Chilean Human Rights Organizations 1973-1978*


Date of Origin

Principal participants


National Committee for Aid to Refugees (CONAR)

September, 1973

Ecumenical leaders, representatives of United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), representative of World Council of Churches, volunteers.

A temporary organization created to facilitate safe exit of political refugees residing in Chile.

Comité de Cooperación para la Paz en Chile (COPACHI)

October, 1973

Formed by representatives of Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, Pentecostal, Orthodox, and Jewish faiths. Volunteer lawyers, social workers, psychologists, doctors, clerical assistants.

Provide material, legal, medical and spiritual assistance to victims of persecution and their families.

Fundación de Ayuda Social de las Iglesias Cristianas (FASIC)

1 April, 1975

Religious coalition: Catholic, Lutheran Evangelist, Methodist, Pentecostal. Membership of about 50. including doctors, psychologists, lawyers.

Assistance for political prisoners and their families; later expanded with a program of medical-psychiatric assistance for torture victims, ex-politics prisoners and their families; helped reunite refugees with families; support social research.

Vicaría de la Solidaridad Arzobispado de Santiago

January, 1976

Organism of the Catholic Church; the continuation of the Comité de Cooperación para la Paz en Chile.

To assist victims of human rights abuse, their families, and exiles through legal and humanitarian aid. Medical and psychological assistance for victims of repression; Documentation of human rights violations; Programs for children, technical assistance for cooperatives, education of community leaders in human rights issues; publications.

Servicio Paz y Justicia (SERPAJ)

November, 1977

Chilean branch of Latin American Christian-Humanist organization.

Various education programs aimed at promoting peace and democracy; solidarity work, humanitarian aid to victims of repression; Assistance to popular organizations and cooperatives; participation in denunciation campaigns

Comisión Nacional Pro Derechos Juveniles (CODEJU)


Youth leaders of various political, ideological and religious positions.

To denounce violations of children’s rights; To assist organization of community youth groups.

Comisión Chilena de Derechos Humanos (CCHDH)

10 December, 1978

Lawyers, academics, artists, political activists; Estimated membership of 3500.

Denounce human rights violations; Legal assistance; Popular education; Maintain connections with international human rights organizations.

*Sources: Frühling et al. 1989. Organizaciones de Derechos Humanos de America Del Sur. Instituto Interamericano de Derechos Humanos; Orellana, Patricio and Elizabeth Hutchison, 1991. El Movimiento de Derechos Humanos en Chile 1973-1990. Centro de Estudios Políticos Latinoamericanos Simón Bolivar (CEPLA). Santiago. Lowden, Patricia, 1996. Moral Opposition to Authoritarian Rule in Chile, 1973-90. St. Antony’s College.

Human Rights Organizations in Uruguay Prior to Democratic Transition*


Date of Origin

Principal participants


Servicio Paz y Justicia (SERPAJ)

1981 (declared illegal in 1983 and activities continued under name of Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos)

Christian-humanists, ecumenical leaders; chapter of SERPAJ Latin America

Only human rights organization operating as such under dictatorship. Raise consciousness about human rights abuses (grass-roots education programs); documentation of human rights abuses committed by military govt.; economic assistance for medical treatment for victims; assistance for returned exiles; denunciation of abuses; support of groups of relatives of detained-disappeared in Argentina, imprisoned, and exiled.

Movimiento de Madres y Familiares de Procesados por la Justicia Militar


Family members of political prisoners; organized under SERPAJ

Denounce inhumane prison conditions and unjust prison sentences

Madres y Familiares de Desaparecidos en Uruguay


Family members of disappeared; created under auspices of SERPAJ

Denounce disappearances and demand return of desaparecidos “con vida” (alive).

Servicio Ecumenico de Reintegración (SER)

July, 1984

Members of various Christian churches including: Methodist-Evangelical; Evangelical; the Archbishopry of Montevideo; Servicio Paz y Justicia, Association of Christian youth.

Assist ex-political prisoners and returned exiles (food, shelter, health); support creation of work opportunities to help process of “reintegration.”

Instituto de Estudios Legales y Sociales del Uruguay (IELSUR)

August 15, 1984

Lawyers (salaried); voluntary collaborators (psychiatrists)

Legal assistance for victims of human rights abuses; assistance for mentally ill; research and promotion of human rights issues in Uruguay

Servicio Rehabilitación Social (SERSOC-URUGUAY)

October, 1984

Medical professionals (14), psychologists and psychiatrists (42), social workers and lawyers (6). Salaried administrative staff.

Assistance and reintegration of ex-prisoners, families of disappeared, and returned exiles; denunciation of human rights abuses; publications and participation in conferences, etc.

*Sources: Frülhing, Hugo,, 1989. Organizaciones de Derechos Humanos de America del Sur. Instituto Interamericano de Derechos Humanos; Maria del Huerto Amarillo and Antonio Serrentino Sabella “El Movimiento de Derechos Humanos en el Uruguay” in La Defensa de los Derechos Humanos en la Transición Democratica Uruguaya. Cuadernos Paz y Justicia No. 4.

Argentine Human Rights Organizations Prior to Democratic Transition*


Date of Origin

Principal participants


Liga Argentina por los Derechos del Hombre (LADH)

December 20, 1937

Radicals, socialists, communists. Reputation linked to the Communist Party

Provide legal/material aid to political prisoners and victims of state abuse; during Proceso, help refugees from other Latin American countries; campaign for liberation of political prisoners; round table discussions to debate issues of military accountability.

Servicio Paz y Justicia (SERPAJ)

1974 (Argentine section formally established in 1980)

Ecumenical leaders; lay activists (lead by Nobel Peace-Prize Winner Adolfo Perez-Esquivel)

Provide assistance and popular education to grass-roots sectors suffering effects of repression. SERPAJ Latin America facilitated formation of APDH and MEDH

Asamblea Permanente por los Derechos Humanos (APDH)

December, 1975

Lawyers, politicians, academics, and other professionals; Raul Alfonsin among founders.

Principal organization that collected denunciations of disappearance/human rights abuses; legal assistance for victims (presentation of writs of habeus corpus); public denunciations; campaigns for release of political prisoners.

Movimiento Ecumenico por los Derechos Humanos (MEDH)

February, 1976

(became most active after 1980)

Formed by several Protestant leaders and dissident Catholic clergy; close ties with World Council of Churches

In early years, direct aid to victims of repression; Educational programs and materials on human rights; legal assistance to victims of human rights abuses and cases of disappeared children; facilitate familial visits to political prisoners and assistance for ex-prisoners.

Familiares de Desaparecidos y Detenidos por Razones Politicas

September 1976

family members of those detained or “disappeared”

To find out what happened to each “disappeared”; provide assistance for family members; Demand freedom for political prisoners; demand justice and punishment for human rights violators.

Madres de Plaza de Mayo

begin marching in 1977 (about 14 women); official Association in August, 1979 (numbers increased to hundreds)

Mothers of disappeared; eventually included permanent staff of lawyers, sociologists, psychiatrists and doctors.

Public manifestations, most notably, Thursday reunions in the Plaza de Mayo; keep records of dates of detained-disappeared; present writs of habeaus corpus; petitions and mobilization; international publicity.

Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo


Grandmothers of children kidnapped with their parents or born in prison assistance of lawyers, medical/psychiatric professionals.

To identify and return missing children to their authentic families. To research and denounce cases of missing children, nationally and internationally (especially to the UN)

Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS)

May 14, 1980

(began informally in 1979 in assistance to APDH

formed by lawyers; includes other professionals, paid administrators, and volunteers..

Splinter group of APDH, taking more aggressive stance towards state repression; Legal and administrative assistance for victims of human rights abuses (writs of habeus corpus); documentation of human rights abuses. Data analysis of human rights abuse statistics; denunciations, publications.

*Sources: Frühling, Hugo. Gloria Alberti and Felipe Portales, 1989. Organizaciones de Derechos Humanos de America del Sur. Instituto Interamericano de Derechos Humanos; Brysk, Alison, 1994. The Politics of Human Rights in Argentina. Stanford University Press (45-51); Gauding, Anna-Karen, 1991. Es mejor encender una luz que maldecir la oscuridad: sobre el trabajo de Diakonia por los derechos humanos en America Latina. Diokonia. (p102); Raúl Veiga, 1985. Las organizaciones de derechos humanos. Centro Editor de America Latina.

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