Colonia Dignidad: Trial of Hartmut Hopp

20 February 2012 - In August 2012 ECCHR began legal work on the Colonia Dignidad complex. The main aim is to support the process of dealing with the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile by taking legal measures in Germany. To that end, ECCHR filed a criminal complaint on 24 August 2011 against Hartmut Hopp with the public prosecutor in Krefeld, Germany. In light of this complaint, the public prosecutor opened formal investigative proceedings on 31 August 2011.


On 6 October 2011 ECCHR cooperation lawyer Petra Schlagenhauf submitted further complaints on behalf of three clients. These were on behalf of the married couple M., now living in Germany, who for years up to 2003 were misprescribed psychotropic medications, and on behalf of Andrés Rekas, whose sister was disappeared in Colonia Dignidad in May 1976. (The case was already included in 1991 Rettig Report of the Chilean commission of inquiry. A decision from the court of first instance was handed down in Chile in January 2012 resulting in the conviction of the Chilean perpetrators and two accessories from the Colonia Dignidad leadership. The proceedings against Hartmut Hopp were suspended due to the fact that he had fled to Germany.)


During the same time period, ECCHR published a dossier on Hartmut Hopp, describing his role in the Colonia Dignidad in more detail and detailing his criminal responsibility as an accomplice or as an indirect perpetrator. Hartmut Hopp took the stand as a defendant in front of the public prosecution service of Krefeld for the first time on 14 February 2012.


Colonia Dignidad, founded by the German Paul Schäfer in 1961 and now known as Villa Baviera, was, until recently, a fortress-like German settlement in Chile. Over decades, gravest human rights violations were committing at Colonia Dignidad, which is said to still have around 280 people living there. Opponents of the Pinochet Regime (1973-1990) were disappeared, tortured, and murdered there. German and Chilean children suffered decades of systematic sexual abuse. Hartmut Hopp belonged to Paul Schäfer's leadership circle, and represented Colonia Dignidad in its external affairs.


The preliminary investigation of Hartmut Hopp in Krefeld is a sign of hope for many victims that following 25 years of half-hearted German investigations previously conducted by the public prosecutor in Bonn there will now be a serious investigation and prosecution of the many gravest crimes committed in Colonia Dignidad. This will also entail taking a closer look at the role played by German foreign policy.


The basis for a thorough investigation is already in place. In 1988, investigative proceedings were initiated against Hopp by the public prosecutor in Bonn.  Numerous witnesses provided testimonials as part of the investigation, and in 2005 a Chilean co-plaintiff brought a large number of documents to Germany from proceedings underway in Chile. Furthermore, some of the victims of Colonia Dignidad live in Germany and can provide concrete testimony on the Hopp case. The same goes for historians and lawyers who have been undertaking work relating to Colonia Dignidad for many years, some of whom are also familiar with the Chilean files on the case.


On 11 January 2011, a Chilean court sentenced Hartmut Hopp to prison for five years and a day for his role in the sexual abuse of minors during the years 1993 to 1997.  He had previously served a 90 day sentence for violating arms control legislation. At this point in time, as Chile comes to terms with the years of the Pinochet dictatorship, and as trials are being held, the German judiciary is obliged to make its own contribution to the legal proceedings surrounding Colonia Dignidad.