Human Rights NATIONAL

Amnesty International releases annual report

Amnesty International just released its latest annual report on human rights. The section on Chile mentions ongoing issues such as estallido prisoners, police violence, the Venezuelan migrant crisis, environmental activists, indigenous rights, and abortion laws. Many of these issues are currently being addressed by the government.

This week, Amnesty International (Amnesty) released its annual report on the state of human rights around the world. As the report puts it, “from a human rights perspective, 2021 was largely a story of betrayal in the corridors of power.” According to Amnesty, it turns out that the promises made by governments to “build back better” after the pandemic were all but empty.


The state of human rights in Chile

In the report’s assessment of human rights in Chile, the ongoing protests surrounding the incarceration of those who participated in the 2019/2020 social outburst (estallido social)  are mentioned as the main issue. The report states that excessive use of force by police against civilians during these protests has persisted and that at least two additional cases of eye injuries were recorded in 2021.

Several investigations surrounding the many deaths and injuries recorded in 2019 and 2020 were also halted in 2021. According to Amnesty, “The National Prosecutor’s Office stated that almost half of its cases had been closed without charges being brought.” However, in May of 2021, in a slight reversal of its position, the office instructed its prosecutors to “review their cases and consider reopening them if minimum investigative standards had not been met.”

The report mentions that at least six lawsuits were filed last year against former President Sebastián Piñera and other government officials for crimes against humanity under Chilean law. These are currently being investigated by the Valparaíso Regional Prosecutor. Despite this, the reform of the Carabineros (Chile’s national police force) that was promised in 2020 has yet to be implemented.

The current situation of Venezuelan migrants is also stated as a key issue. The report explains that the humanitarian crisis presented by thousands of people trying to enter Chile through the north was exacerbated by mass expulsions. The new migration law enforced in April 2021 only made matters worse by severely restricting migrants’ ability to regularize their status once in Chile. “At least 20 people died amid a humanitarian crisis intensified by the government’s inaction in providing accommodation and assistance to people seeking protection or providing resources to support them,” the report says. In addition, over 500 people were forced to leave Chile without due process last year in what “could amount to collective expulsions as a result of a government deportation plan.”

When it comes to indigenous rights, some progress was made, but there were also considerable setbacks. One positive aspect mentioned by the report is that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights began examining a petition submitted by three Mapuche men who were convicted in what they allege was an unfair trial related to a fire that killed two people. On the other hand, in April, police shot and injured a Mapuche leader while detaining him and denied him immediate treatment. Many Mapuche communities also continue to be displaced from their ancestral lands in order to make way for large-scale industrial projects such as the Rucalhue Dam.

Harassment and attacks against environmental defenders also continued in 2021. The report cites the cases of violent threats against Verónica Vilches, an activist working to defend the right to water in the Petorca province, and Marcela Nieto, a member of the women’s movement combating air and water pollution in the Quintero-Puchuncaví sector. Activist and former chair of the El Durazno Valley Ecological Group Javiera Rojas was also found dead in late 2021 (although to date there is no confirmation that her death had anything to do with her activism).

In terms of reproductive rights, Congress rejected a bill which would have decriminalized abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy, meaning that abortion remains illegal except for certain specific circumstances. However, progress was made on the HIV front, as Chile reached a settlement before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, where it admitted its responsibility in the forced sterilization of a woman with HIV in 2002. Officials also “agreed to implement measures to ensure informed consent and access to health services without discrimination for people with HIV,” according to the report.

Recent efforts to enhance human rights in Chile

The Boric government plans to implement an anti-repression agenda by eliminating certain laws that have been used arbitrarily in the past such as the State Security Law, the Anti-looting Law, and the Preventive Identity Check Law. The report also mentions that “at the end of the year, Congress was debating several bills to simplify access to civil reparations for victims and expressly prohibit harmful police conduct, such as sexual abuse during detention and use of less lethal weapons when policing protests.”

In mid-March, Chile’s Constitutional Convention approved an article to legalize abortion, which will be a part of the New Constitution that will be submitted for approval in early July. A big step forward was also made in terms of LGBTQ+ rights, when Congress approved a bill legalizing same-sex marriage. As of March 2022, same-sex couples can now officially get married in Chile.

Since his inauguration in early March, President Boric has also set in motion several initiatives to improve the state of human rights in Chile, such as executing the Escazú agreement, which will offer wider legal protection to environmental activists, and the fast-tracking of a bill that will grant amnesty to those who were unjustly apprehended during the estallido social.


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