Human rights campaigners protest over Chile’s Esmeralda ‘prison ship’ at Millwall Docks

Chilean naval training ship Esmeralda and [inset] Fr Michael Woodward

Chilean naval training ship Esmeralda and [inset] Fr Michael Woodward - Credit: protest group

A Chilean naval training vessel once said to have been used as a “prison torture ship” by the Pinochet regime is facing protests today at the Millwall Docks in east London.

Training vessel Esmeralda at sea

Training vessel Esmeralda at sea - Credit: protest group

British priest Michael Woodward was one of “at least 140 detainees” imprisoned aboard the Esmeralda who vanished during the Pinochet dictatoriship 40 years ago, members of the London-based Memoriaviva human rights group claim.

Fr Woodward’s body was never recovered, despite four decades of campaigning by his family and ex-patriot members of the protest group who are turning up to demonstrate against the “goodwill” visit by the Chilean Navy.

“The Esmeralda is a living monument to atrocities of Pinochet’s dictatorship,” the group’s Jimmy Bell told the East London Advertiser.

“It’s shameful that the government is allowing this ship into British waters.

“The Chilean Navy has never apologized for the human rights abuse in the 40 years since Pinochet’s rule.”

The campaigners claim the ship was the site of “torture and murder” of at least 40 women and 100 men in September, 1973, who were caught up in Pinochet’s military coup which overthrew the elected Allende government.

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Amnesty International, which says the Esmeralda’s voyages “damage Chile’s image”, plans to continue protests around the world until the human rights violations are clarified and “those responsible brought to justice”.