UN Accuses Chilean Security Forces Of Human Rights Abuses

On Friday 13 December, a 30 page report produced by a UN Human Rights Office team, detailed extensive allegations of human rights abuses by Chilean police and army forces committed during Chile’s recent mass-demonstrations. The allegations included in the report include “torture, ill-treatment, rape and other forms of sexual violence by police against people held in detention, many of whom appear to have been detained arbitrarily”. According to official figures, more than 28,000 people were detained between 18 October and 6 December.

The report contains information gathered from over 235 interviews with victims of alleged human rights violations and 60 interviews conducted with police officers. The report found that this information gathered from a variety of sources led to the belief that “the police has regularly failed to distinguish between people demonstrating peacefully and violent protestors”. Additionally, the report included information gathered from 113 specific cases of torture and ill-treatment, 24 cases of sexual violence perpetrated by police and army members, with the National Human Rights Institution receiving hundreds more complaints of this nature. The report states that four cases of death involved during the protests were regarded as “arbitrary deprivation of life … involving State agents”.

Ministry of Justice figures used in the report stated that 4,903 people were injured including 2,792 police officers, while some sources put the overall number much higher. 345 people suffered eye trauma from pellets, showing “unnecessary and disproportionate use of less-lethal weapons, in particular anti-riot shotguns”. While small pockets of protestors did use violence against police, these figures show police and army actions violated international standards and norms for dealing with the protests as a whole.

The report states a number of recommendations to the Chilean State which should be taken seriously and adhered to. These include the protection of individuals’ and groups’ ability to exercise their right to peaceful assembly and expression. The use of unnecessary police violence has been cited for an escalation in retaliatory violence from protestors, which in turn increased the extremity of police and army violence against protestors. In addition, Chilean law enforcement must follow international norms on the use of force, with an emphasis on the use of non-violent strategies before resorting to less-lethal weapons, if this would at all be necessary. This also includes the end to indiscriminate use of anti-riot shotguns and tear gas. The Chilean government must take immediate steps to ensure that all law enforcement and military personnel involved with managing protests have adequate training and resources to provide a safe environment for all those involved, as well as processes that provide transparency and accountability. Furthermore, the report states that “The demonstrations that have taken place in Chile … have multiple root causes, including social and economic inequality”. Therefore, steps must be taken at a structural level to account for this social and economic inequality, with the government listening to the protestors and the reasons they feel unaccounted for, in turn pushing for progressive and fair political policies that account for the populations wishes.