Palamara Iribarne / Chile

A freedom of expression case that requires Chile to reform its military justice system.Humberto Palamara Iribarne, an ex-Chilean naval intelligence official, wrote a book in 1992 about the ethics and purposes of intelligence services. All of the information that was used to write the book was available to the public. Due to the publication, Mr. Palamara was subjected to various military justice processes for disobeying and failing to follow orders.

The Chilean Navy prohibited the book from being sold and a military patrol entered the printing house and took 1,000 sample editions, because they made “national security and defense vulnerable.” They also entered Mr. Palamara’s home with an order to arrest him and take his computer documents.

In the trial before the Court, it was shown that during the summery, neither he nor his attorney had access to the court records to prepare his defense, until the Naval Prosecutor gave his statement. They couldn’t present witnesses’ statements or Mr. Palamara’s statement that was taken behind closed doors. He received a sentence of one and a half years in prison from the Martial Court. The efforts by the defense to appeal and annul the decision before the Chilean Supreme Court of Justice were rejected.

Mr. Palamara lost his employment and the money for the book’s printing, he was arrested in front of his children and imprisoned for writing. He was forced to move to the city Punta Arenas and he was separated from his family.

In January 1996, CEJIL and Human Rights Watch-Americas brought the case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and, in 2004, the case was taken before the Inter-American Human Rights Court.

In November 2005, the Court established that Chile was guilty of having violated Mr. Palamara’s right to the freedom of expression, private property, judicial guarantees, judicial protection, and to personal freedom. It ordered the government to return the materials he used to write the book and the edition that was taken.

On top of that, Chile was ordered to compensate Mr. Palamara, to drop the charges against him, and to adopt more appropriate internal laws to be in line with international standards when it comes to freedom of expression and military punishment.

According to the Court, “in case the existence of a military penal court is considered necessary, it needs to be limited solely to working on known crimes that were committed by active military service members. Therefore, the government needs to establish, within its legislation, limits to personal and material responsibility in the military tribunals, in a form so that no civil circumstance will see itself subjected to the jurisdiction of military tribunals.”

In 2006, the Navy’s publishing house printed the book, “Ethics and Services of Intelligence.” The charges against Mr. Palamara were left without effect and he received an economic reimbursement.

However, the government has not completed the obligations of bringing their laws in line with international standards.