Will Australia extradite former torturer Adriana Rivas to face justice?

During General Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship, one of the most notorious places for political dissidents to end up was Cuartel Simon Bolivar. It was here, in the extermination centre known as “the place where no one got out alive” that Adriana Rivas, a former National Intelligence Directorate (DINA) agent and personal secretary to DINA Chief Manuel Contreras, gained a particularly brutal reputation for her work in the systematic torture and extermination of Pinochet’s opponents.

The notorious Cuartel Simon Bolivar, an extermination centre where many of the worst atrocities of Chiles military dictatorship took place in the 1970s.
The notorious Cuartel Simon Bolivar, an extermination centre where many of the worst atrocities of Chiles military dictatorship took place in the 1970s. (Courtesy of Villa Grimaldi)

The torture cycle experienced by political detainees included beatings, electrocution and sexual depravity. Rivas is said to have rendered prisoners to the brink of death; the last phase before being administered cyanide injections and disappeared. The bodies were then disposed of in the ocean or burnt in drums, to prevent identification of the victims. The remains buried in undisclosed locations.

The centre was located in La Reina, an otherwise quiet residential suburb on the outskirts of Santiago.

After “retiring” from such work, she moved to Australia, where she has freely resided since 1978, returning to Chile for family visits.

In Australia, Rivas has managed to abscond from Chilean justice. An extradition request to Australia, first made in 2014, remains unresolved.

Rivas is wanted by the Chilean authorities for the aggravated kidnappings, torture and disappearances of seven Revolutionary Left Movement (MIR) and Communist Party militants: Fernando Ortiz, Victor Diaz, Fernando Navarro, Lincoyan Berrios, Horacio Cepeda, Hector Veliz and Reinalda Pereira.

The seven leftists were all victims of a 1976 clandestine operation known as Calle Conferencia, during the darkest years of General Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship. The operation was carried out by the elite Lautaro Brigade, of which Rivas was a member, under the command of Juan Morales Salgado.

In 2006, she was indicted by the Chilean courts for her participation in the crimes committed at Cuartel Simon Bolivar — a torture and extermination centre that remained a military secret before being exposed by Jorgelino Vergara Bravo, a former errand boy to DINA Chief Manuel Contreras. While on bail, Rivas managed to evade Chilean authorities and return to Australia.

She remains unrepentant. Three years ago, Rivas gave an interview to Australian media in which she declared, “The best years of my life, of my youth, were the ones I lived in the DINA.” In the same detached manner, Rivas went on to state that torture was necessary “to break down the communists.”

Mobilisation by Chileans at home and abroad is increasing after additional information was submitted by the Chilean courts to the Australian government to support the extradition request initially made in 2014.

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