Human rights violations during demonstrations in Chile are widespread and repeated. The State is responsible.

29/01/2020
Report
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Following its visit to Chile from 6 to 11 November 2019 to ascertain the serious allegations of human rights violations in the country as part of the protests and social mobilization taking place there, the International Civil Society Observation Mission [1] releases its final report (available in Spanish). The report stresses that the human rights violations committed during the protests are widespread, the product of a deep-rooted policy of repression, and amount to serious violations of international human rights law. Similarly, a thorough investigation is needed to determine the possible commission of international crimes.

In this sense, the report states that "the serious human rights violations that have occurred in Chile since October 2019, as part of the social protests, were not isolated events. It is an expression of the State violence practices, rooted in law enforcement and security services, which can be identified for years and have been verified on a large scale and throughout the country as part of recent mobilizations," as well as the protest of the Mapuche people, who have been repeatedly reported to the treaty bodies.

The document adds that "the security forces, in particular the Carabineros of Chile, have made an excessive and disproportionate use of force, with the intention of punishing and instructing the demonstrators" and that there is an "indiscriminate and criminal use of the less lethal weapons", making special reference "to the enormous number of people who are victims of severe eye trauma and injuries to the upper part of the body, including the head".

The verified violations "include at least four cases of extrajudicial executions by state agents, hundreds of cases of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment during the arrest and in police stations, cases of sexual violence and rape in conditions of deprivation of liberty, thousands of persons injured by the abusive use of less lethal force in the context of public assemblies and thousands of cases of arbitrary arrests". These violatons are widespread and in accordance with Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, some of them amount to crimes against humanity.

To address these widespread violations, the Mission’s report makes 23 short- and medium term recommendations to restore social order and guarantee the right of assembly and demonstrations in the country.

1. Create a Commission of historical clarification that, given the human rights violations and possible international crimes that have occurred since 18 October 2019, will establish the political and administrative responsibilities for the violations and monitor the progress of the corresponding criminal cases, evaluating compliance with the State’s obligation to carry out a prompt, comprehensive and effective investigation.

2. Promptly investigate human rights violations committed and take immediate disciplinary and/or criminal action against public officials responsible for human rights violations, in particular in cases of violation of the right to life and personal integrity and including the hierarchical superiors who authorized or endorsed the police operations.

3. Initiate a process of profound reform of the Carabineros of Chile aimed at democratizing its structure and reviewing its role in Chilean society, adapting its rules, protocols and regulations to international human rights standards.

4. Repeal the current rules on the right of assembly and regulate it in accordance with international human rights law.

5. Suspend the use by Carabineros of firearms, pellets and less lethal equipment, particularly as part of social protests, until they are properly regulated, cases are investigated and responsibilities for injuries suffered to date by the population are determined.

6. Guarantee the assistance of the Public Defender’s Office in an effective and adequate manner from the first moments of detention, ensuring that interviews with persons deprived of liberty are arranged prior to hearings and are of a duration and content that guarantees the adequate exercise of the defence and the systematic detection of possible cases of torture, ill-treatment and sexual violence.

7. Establish action protocols for the Public Defender’s Office and the Public Prosecutor’s Office, guaranteeing the adequate detection, documentation, reporting and punishment of torture and ill-treatment, according to their respective competencies, keeping records of all cases identified, reported by the victims, formalized and with sentences.

8. Undertaking by the Public Defender’s Office, the National Prosecutor’s Office and the Judiciary of unannounced inspections of places of detention run by the Carabineros, the Investigation Police and the Justice Centres.

9. Train all relevant judicial officers in the proper application of the Manual on the Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment - Istanbul Protocol - in all their interventions and at all stages of the criminal process.

10. Protocolize medical action, with special emphasis on the proactive detection of injuries and possible cases of torture, in accordance with the Istanbul Protocol, that the detainee’s consent be expressly recorded and that the report, in accordance with confidentiality, be delivered in a sealed envelope addressed to the guarantee judge.

11. Ensure that all detainees have access to medical injury control in public health institutions without the presence of the security forces or the military.

12. Create a single register to collect information from all health centres, public and private, on people injured in demonstrations.

13. Provide the necessary conditions for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to effectively carry out its on-site visit in the country.

14. Ensure that victims of sexual violence have rapid access to protection and support services, including treatment of possible injuries related to sexual violence by health professionals (treatment of infections and other sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV, traumatic gynaecological and obstetric fistulas, access to pregnancy testing, including emergency contraception, and psychological support).

15. Ensure that journalists, photojournalists, photographers, human rights monitors and health care staff and volunteers are able to carry out their work properly and that attacks and arrests against them cease.

16. Establish a mechanism, with the participation of the Chilean National Human Rights Institute (NHRI) and non-governmental human rights organizations, to monitor and ensure compliance with the recommendations given in the reports of international bodies and human rights organizations that have made reports on the demonstrations.

17. Strengthen the work of the Chilean NHRI at the national level by ensuring that there are no obstacles to the full implementation of its mandate, in particular in relation to the control of the situation of deprivation of liberty during the first hours of detention and protection against torture and ill-treatment.

18. Make the National Mechanism for the Prevention of Torture (MNPT) effectively operational. In order to guarantee the functional autonomy of the National Mechanism, it should not be subject to any form of subordination to the Chilean NHRI. The organization chart of the Chilean NHRI shall reflect the requirements of the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture, which specifies that the national preventive mechanism should have operational autonomy with regard to its resources, work plan, conclusions, recommendations and direct and confidential contact with the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture.

19. Ensure conditions so that civil society organizations can effectively and freely fulfil their role of protecting human rights, providing documentation, records and contact with persons deprived of liberty.

20. Reject legislative proposals aimed at penalizing or imposing administrative restrictions and sanctions on social protest, including proposals that penalize the total or partial blocking of public roads.

21. Publish, by the competent bodies, at the local, national, regional levels, detailed data on protests (number of demonstrators, number of people injured and arrested, if any) and police operations, including information on assigned police personnel, acquisition of lethal and less lethal weapons and ammunition and their costs, use of lethal and less lethal weapons and ammunition, protocols for the use of force, and user manuals for each type of weapon.

22. Publish administrative decisions on the authorization to use force and the dispersal of demonstrations in official media.

23. Esnure effective control of police activity by the Public Prosecutor’s Office as part of the exercise of the right to protest.

See the full report here (in spanish) :

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  • Co-signatories

    Members of the International Mission:
    Christine Keith, Alianza Global contra la Incineración de Basura (GAIA), USA; Camila Marques, Article 19, Brazil; Denise Mora, Article 19, Brazil; Miriam Liempe, Argentine Workers’ Central Union (CTA Autónoma), Argentina; Andrés Lopez, Argentine Centre for Legal and Social Studies (CELS), Argentina; Christina Ayala, Comité por los Derechos Humanos en América Latina [Human Rights Committee for Latin America] (CDHAL), Canada; Ayelen Beigbeder, Human Rights League of Argentina (LADH), Argentina - International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), France; Nora Morales de Cortiñas, Madres de Plaza de Mayo Línea Fundadora, Argentina; Enrique Font World Organization against Torture (OMCT), Switzerland; Yaizha Campanario, Equality Peru, Peru - International Working Group for Indigenous Matters (IWGIA), Denmark.

  • Member organisations - Chile

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