SANTIAGO — Amnesty International released a report this week stating that those in charge employed policies that were more violent than necessary to deter protesters. This potentially raises serious concerns for the Piñera administration. The government, the police, and the military, however, all responded to these accusations and rejected the findings.
Amnesty International’s findings are damning. “The intention of the Chilean security forces is clear: to injure demonstrators in order to discourage protest, even to the extent of using torture and sexual violence against protesters. Instead of taking measures to curb the very grave human rights crisis, the authorities, under the command of President Sebastián Piñera, have pursued a policy of punishment for over a month, adding yet more people to the staggering number of victims, which is continuing to rise to this day”, the report says.
The organization recorded at least 23 cases of human rights violations, documented in eight different regions since the start of the unrest. The crimes are qualified in four main violations:
- Use of lethal force: Including lethal weapons and ammunition against protesters, including semi-automatic rifles and guns and live ammunition. International standards forbid the use of such to disperse civil protests.
- Torture and ill-treatment: Considered a crime under international law, torture was performed against protesters by police and military forces, including rape and other sexual tortures, causing life-long physical consequences in many cases.
- Serious injuries and potentially lethal weapons: Together with the violation of use of lethal force, lethal ammunition was used under grave misbehavior (like shooting at point-blank range or intentionally aiming for compromising body zones).
- Restriction on the work of human rights defenders: Police and military forces have impeded, blocked or directly injured human rights movements, medical aiders, or medical center personnel – both during and after the state of emergency.
The organization clarified that every crime and violation observed responded to a consistent modus operandi from the police forces. Amnesty International says the four general classifications of human rights violations “are not new” and some continue to be seen on the streets.
The government is likely keen, therefore, to dismiss these findings and downplay any violence committed by Chile’s security forces. Numerous government, police, and army officials have rejected the findings.
Response on Amnesty Report From Ministers
Undersecretary of Human Rights, Lorena Recabarren, asserted the government’s “categorical” rejection of Amnesty’s report.
In a statement to the press on Nov. 21, Recabarren criticized Amnesty’s investigation, saying that the organization did not consult the Chilean government in the process. She also lamented that the report “includes statements that are irresponsible without corresponding backup.”
She affirmed that “the only policy the government had, was that of safeguarding and the protection of human rights.”
On Nov. 22, Minister of the Interior Gonzalo Blumel supported Recabarren’s comments concerning Amnesty’s lack of consultation with the government. Speaking to the press, he claimed, “Since I assumed the role of Minister of the Interior, I have not received any request to resolve the concerns and doubts that Amnesty may have.”
Blumel specified that “the report presented yesterday has multiple deficiencies,” and he emphasized how he wanted to speak to Amnesty to “give them the necessary information to clarify their doubts.”
Echoing the words of Recabarren, Blumel also raised concerns about the organization releasing their report with insufficient evidence. Blumel said, “when they have all the background, they will see that what we have done as a government is to be absolutely proactive in respecting the laws and norms.”
‘Mistakes or Irregularities May Have Been Made’
Minister of Defense, Alberto Espina, spoke out in support of the security forces. In a statement, he said, “I must clearly point out that Amnesty, in saying that the Armed Forces are committing a generalized attack with the intention of harming those who are protesting, is stating an extraordinarily serious and false fact.”
“The Armed forces acted in virtue of the state of emergency exactly for the contrary, to protect the Chileans and save them from the wave of looting, vandalism and attacks on their personal lives and property,” Espina confirmed.
He affirmed that the security forces are entitled to defend themselves and highlighted the important role of soldiers: “these same soldiers are those who permanently risk their lives in all the catastrophes in recent years, and they have no right to be insulted, slandered and offended as has been done.”
However, Espina did acknowledge that some members of the forces may have violated human rights. “In cases like that where, like any other group of human beings, mistakes or irregularities may have been made, they are being investigated.”
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🗣️ #Bassaletti After a reporter was hit during a protest, Bassaletti was asked about the use of rubber bullets by police, which were recently banned. He compared them to chemotherapy, saying that “when you look to solve the problem, [killing good cells] is a risk you take.”
The President Ignored The Meeting
Amnesty rebuffed accusations that it did not seek evidence that would demonstrate a more holistic view of the situation. According to the organization, none of the organization’s requests to speak to the government were confirmed.
Ana Piquer, representative of Amnesty Chile, spoke to Radio Infinitiva: “The Undersecretary [of Human Rights] said that we had not requested information from the State but the truth is that we requested a meeting and received no response.”
Amnesty says it attempted to hold a meeting with the president to present the report and discuss the findings with him, however it did not receive an answer. The organization therefore rejects the government’s statements to the contrary.
In a tweet, Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty, posted a photo of the official document that was sent to the government. She said: “It will be important to present [the president] with our conclusions.”
Presidente @sebastianpinera, parece haber una confusión con sus funcionarios respecto a nuestra solicitud de audiencia. Dado que los canales formales no han funcionado, aquí se la hago llegar esperando su pronta respuesta #Chile. Será importante presentarle nuestras conclusiones. pic.twitter.com/Xrh5YAscWo
— Erika Guevara-Rosas (@ErikaGuevaraR) November 22, 2019
Ana Truesdale is a British student, studying Liberal Arts at Durham Univeristy, who is currently interning at Chile Today on her year abroad. She has a strong interest in Latin American culture and journalism and wishes to experience all that Chile has to offer.