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It is an independent, temporary, quasi-legal large scale investigation on a matter of public interest. From a specific social complaint, the State creates, launches and funds the inquiry with the purpose of investigating past violations to human rights such as torture and crimes during dictatorships, state violence or negligence, or systematic abuse in any public institution or sphere.


.Clarifying facts, causes and consequences. 

.Receive and acknowledge testimonies from victims and survivors. 

.Establish recommendations directed towards the Government and its institutions to prevent the repetition of facts and guarantee a comprehensive redress scheme for victims and survivors.

It is intended to look into a matter related from different sources, part of which deny, hinder or conceal information.


An inquiry gains importance by addressing a matter previously neglected, minimized, ignored or trivialised by the established power. It becomes a witness for survivors facing scepticism, stigmatization and social rejection, and offers them a safe confidential place where their suffering and experiences can be both expressed and heard.

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Types of inquiries


Inquiries in Chile and the rest of Latin America are usually those created by presidents. Other previous inquiries of this nature from after the transition from dictatorships to democracies are still highly respected for their results and reliability. They entail the most transparent and less controversial way to establish an inquiry on child abuse in institutional environments and can be based on numerous precedents.

In the political system in Chile, broad powers, both legislative and administrative,  enable the president to create an inquiry. Previous inquiries were established by presidential decree, which, under the current Chilean constitution, is the main procedure for this purpose. 

Commissioners lead the investigation, assisted by support personnel. An inquiry can gather documented evidence and hear testimonies in different formats, although it is only allowed to request the participation of the Executive Power and not that of individuals, companies or institutions. 

Te result of the inquiry comprises a report with its conclusions and recommendatios for reforms. An inquiry cannot hold an individual accountable for their crime, but it can submit evidence to District Court or Judicature.



Previous presidential inquiries in Chile:

La Comisión de Verdad y Reconciliación, Comisión Rettig (1990)

Comisión Verdad Histórica y Nuevo Trato con los Pueblos Indígenas (2001)

Comisión Nacional sobre Prisión Política y Tortura, Comisión Valech I (2003)

Comisión Asesora para la Calificación de Detenidos Desaparecidos,

Ejecutados Políticos y Víctimas de Prisión Política y Tortura, Comisión

Valech II (2010)


Examples of presidential inquiries in the rest of Latin America


Argentina: Comisión Nacional sobre la Desaparición de Personas (1983)

Bolivia: Comisión Nacional de Investigación de Ciudadanos Desaparecidos

Forzados (1982)

Ecuador: Comisión de Verdad y Justicia (1996) y Comisión de la Verdad para

impedir la impunidad (2007)

Panamá: Comisión de la Verdad (2001)

Perú: Comisión de la Verdad y Reconciliación (2001)

Uruguay: Comisión Nacional para la Paz (2000)


By law

A law is enacted to create an inquiry, establish its functioning and the election of its members, and commnands the president to guarantee its funding and proper operating.

The same as a presidential inquiry, commisioners lead the investigation assisted by support personnel. An inquiry established by law can gather documentary evidence and hear teastimonies in different formats, but, as opposite  to presidential inquiries, is allowed to request the cooperation of anyone including individuals, companies and institutions. 

A la Comisión de la Verdad de Bolivia (2016) se le otorgó el poder de convocar a cualquier persona para testificar o proporcionar información bajo pena de responsabilidad penal o administrativa,  mientras que la Comisión de Verdad y Justicia de Paraguay (2004) tenía un poder más limitado, por el que podía solicitar a la Judicatura que obligara a particulares a cooperar. En la ley que estableciera la comisión se determinaría qué estrategia seguir.

The Bolivian inquiry of 2016 was granted the power to request the participation of any individual to testify or provide information under penalty of criminal or administrative accountability, while the powers given to the inquiry created in Paraguay in 2004 were more restricted and only requesting the Judicature to cooperate was allowed. The law resulting from the inquiry would establish the strategies to follow.


Examples of inquiries established by law

Chile: Comisión Asesora para la Calificación de Detenidos Desaparecidos,

Ejecutados Políticos y Víctimas de Prisión Política y Tortura, Valech II (2010)

Bolivia: Comisión de la Verdad (2016)

Paraguay: Comisión de Verdad y Justicia (2004)

The alternatives - special inquiries carried out by public institutions


Either according to the constitution or by law, some public institutions may be granted the power to carry out an investigation similar to an inquiry. These investigations made by public institutions may pertain to the Lesgislative Power or the Ombudsman.

The Chilean constitution gives the chamber of Deputies the power to establish inquiries destined to investigate specific actions of the Government. The commisioners are appointed by parliament memmbers from different parties and lead the inquiry assisted by support personnel. This special inquiry is allowed to gather documentary evidence and hear the testimonies in different formats, although it can only request the voluntary testimonies of individuals. The results contains a report with conclusions and recommnedations fofor reforms.

Examples of previous special inquiries carried out by public institutions


Chile: Comisión Especial Investigadora de la Cámara de Diputados sobre

el SENAME (I) (2013) y Comisión Especial Investigadora de la Cámara de

Diputados sobre el SENAME (II) (2016)

Ecuador: Comisión Ocasional Especializada «AAMPETRA» (caso

«AAMPETRA») (2018)

Perú: Comisión investigadora de las masacres en los Penales (1986) y

Comisión Investigadora de abusos sexuales contra menores de edad en

organizaciones («caso del Sodalitium Christianae Vitae») (2017)

Establishing a special inquiry is easy. However, it takes the agrrement of at least two fifths of the chamber of Deputies. So far, two special inquiries have been established in Chile, regarding violations to human rights against children in care (SENAME).   

Under the current Chilean constitution, special inquiries can only investigate the activities of the Government. On the contrary, the Peruvian constitution gives broad powers of supervision to the Congress, which is allowed to look into any matter of public interest and convene any individual to appear before a Legislative Commission.

The success of these inquiries depends mainly upon the political atmosphere, since their final report is to be voted on, and approved by the Legislative Power (the respective Congress or Chamber). For itstance, in Chile the final report of the SENAME II inquiry ewas rejected for political reasons.

Tipos de

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This section was made possible by joint work with CRIN 

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