LONDON — Amnesty International charged today that Chile's official security services are responsible for gangs of plainclothes gunmen who kidnap, torture and kill opponents of President Augusto Pinochet's military regime.
The independent human rights organization also said the use of torture by Chilean police agents has become almost standard practice and that doctors are often present to advise on how much "treatment" a victim can stand.
The charges by Amnesty International, winner of the 1977 Nobel Peace Prize, are included in a 22-page report titled "The Clandestine and Illegal Practices of the Security Forces in Chile."
"The degree of repression has escalated sharply since 1983," when mass protests against Pinochet's right-wing government began to escalate, the report said.
It said the gunmen act in broad daylight with total impunity.
"The threat of arrest, abduction, torture and even death is ever-present for thousands of Chileans, from church workers, human rights activists and the urban poor to members of opposition organizations," Amnesty International said.
The groups often present themselves as independent vigilante squads with such names as Chilean Anti-Communist Action, but Amnesty International said that "both their methods and the degree of impunity with which they operate indicate that the security forces are involved."
The report explained: "The clandestine forces are highly organized and have considerable financial backing. They use vehicles without registration plates and operate without restraint in broad daylight and during curfew hours. They have their own communications equipment and access to detention centers.
"They possess detailed information about their victims of a kind that would usually only be held by government intelligence units.
"Sufficient evidence has emerged to conclude that these groups are composed of members of security services acting undercover with civilian collaborators," the report said.
It said that clandestine forces have victimized hundreds of activists and their friends and relatives, who have been followed, photographed and physically assaulted on the street, abducted and tortured or "injured or killed by gunshots fired from passing cars."