For over 30 years, the Committee has supported the family of Dr. Boris Weisfeiler, Professor of Mathematics at Penn State University, in their search for the truth concerning the disappearance of Weisfeiler while hiking in Chile during the Pinochet regime. Finally, classified documents concerning Weisfeiler in the US Embassy in Chile and in the US State Department were declassified, resulting in the indictment in 2012 of four retired former police officers and four retired former Army officers.
CCS asked President Bachelet to introduce a bill to create a permanent human rights commission to re-examine whether Weisfeiler and others’ human rights were denied by the authorities.
President of Chile
Palacio de La Moneda
Santiago de Chile, Chile
April 30, 2015
Dear President Bachelet:
You may be aware of the continued search for the truth concerning the disappearance of Dr. Boris Weisfeiler, Professor of Mathematics at Penn State University in the United States, who disappeared while hiking in the Andes on January 5, 1985. Weisfeiler was a member of our organization and the Committee and his family have been concerned about this case for many years.
Finding the truth about this case, as is the case of many disappearances from the Pinochet era, has been a long and tortuous process. Weisfeiler came to Chile to hike through the Andes on a vacation. He was alone. Shortly thereafter he disappeared and was never heard from again. Initially, it was reported that he drowned while hiking, despite the fact that he was an experienced outdoorsman. The official investigation of his case was closed shortly thereafter. For many years his sister, Olga Weisfeiler, pursued the details of this case with the assistance of our Committee but without luck – requesting information both from your government and the U.S. Department of State. All information regarding this case by the US Embassy in Chile was considered classified.
In January 2000 a Chilean attorney was able to have the case reopened in Chilean courts. On June 30, 2000 the U.S. Department of State, in compliance with the Chile Declassification Project, released more than 450 official documents relating to the Weisfeiler case. However, two human rights commissions (Rettig, 1990, and Valech, 2010-11) failed to establish that Weisfeiler’s disappearance was a human rights case. The mandate of those investigations has now expired. In August 2012, however, a Chilean Judge, Jorge Zepeda, ordered the arrest of eight retired police and military officers in connection with the disappearance and kidnapping of Boris Weisfeiler. They are to be prosecuted for aggravated kidnapping and complicity in his disappearance.
With the recent indictments and the ability to review the information in the declassified government documents, it appears that the Weisfeiler case deserves a fair and complete review for classification as a human rights violation. We are asking you at this time to speedily introduce a bill allowing for the establishment of a permanent Human Rights Commission that could open for review cases that need to be submitted and re-reviewed, such as, and in particular, the Weisfeiler case. The families of these victims deserve the peace of mind that comes from a reasonable, complete and fair explanation of what happened to their loved ones and the honor of knowing that it was a violation of their Human Rights, with the responsibility being that of the State under the Pinochet regime.
Sincerely,Joel L. Lebowitz, Paul H. Plotz, Walter Reich,
Eugene M. Chudnovsky, Alexander Greer
Co-Chairs, Committee of Concerned Scientists
- Chilean Court Charges Ex-Officers in Weisfeiler Arrest (concernedscientists.org)
- Classified US Documents Could Set the Record Straight on Chile’s Military Coup (news.vice.com)