Colonia Dignidad: Criminal Proceedings against Hartmut Hopp
The former doctor of the infamous German sect “Colonia Dignidad” in Chile, Hartmut Hopp, may face prison in Germany. On 7 June 2016 prosecutors in Krefeld appealed to a regional court to enforce the jail sentence handed down to Hopp by Chilean courts. ECCHR is calling for a swift decision from the court.
In 2011 Hopp was sentenced in Chile to five years’ imprisonment for aiding the sexual abuse of minors. Hopp escaped punishment by fleeing to Germany. Since then he has been living in Krefeld in western Germany, protected from extradition through his German citizenship.
Human rights violations during the Pinochet dictatorship
Colonia Dignidad, founded by a German named Paul Schäfer in 1961, was a fortress-like German settlement in central Chile where grave human rights were committed over several decades.
Opponents of the Pinochet regime (1973-1990) were “disappeared”, tortured and murdered at the enclave. German and Chilean children were subjected to systematic sexual abuse there. Hopp was part of Paul Schäfer’s inner circle and represented Colonia Dignidad in its external affairs.
ECCHR complaint against Hopp
Since 2011 ECCHR has been working to address the human rights violations at Colonia Dignidad and the sect’s collaboration with the Pinochet dictatorship. The primary aim is to support the criminal proceedings in Chile through legal action in Germany.
In August 2011 ECCHR and its cooperating lawyer Petra Schlagenhauf submitted a criminal complaint against Hopp. Shortly afterwards prosecutors in Krefeld opened a formal investigation on the case based on the complaint. In February 2012 Krefeld was called as a suspect to give evidence.
In the course of the investigations the ECCHR also published a dossier on Hopp, describing his role in the Colonia Dignidad and detailing his criminal responsibility as an accomplice or indirect perpetrator.
Dossier: Hartmut Hopp, Colonia Dignidad doctor (German)Colonia Dignidad - Stellungnahme Hopp - 2011-10-06.pdf (970.6 KiB)
Progress in Chile through legal action in Germany
The investigative proceedings against Hopp in Krefeld are a sign of hope for many victims that there will finally be serious investigations and prosecutions concerning the crimes committed in Colonia Dignidad. Some of the sect’s victims live in Germany and could give evidence. There are also lawyers and historians in Germany who have been working on the topic for years and who are familiar with the Chilean files.
Investigations originally began in Germany in 1988, when prosecutors in Bonn opened investigatory proceedings against Hopp. Evidence was heard from several witnesses and documentation from the Chilean proceedings was submitted in Germany but there were insufficient efforts made to advance the proceedings.
Further complaints against Hopp
In October 2011 ECCHR’s cooperating lawyer Petra Schlagenhauf submitted two further complaints against Hopp.
One was submitted on behalf of a married couple, now living in Germany, both of whom were misprescribed psychotropic drugs by sect doctors at Colonia Dignidad until 2003. The second complaint was on behalf of Andrés Rekas, whose sister disappeared at Colonia Dignidad in May 1976. This case was included in the 1991 Rettig report compiled by a Chilean commission of inquiry.
In January 2012 a Chilean court convicted a number of Chileans and two leading members of Colonia Dignidad for their roles in the crimes of the dictatorship. The legal proceedings against Hopp were suspended after he fled to Germany.