Human Rights NATIONAL

Government Revives Bill to Strengthen Protections for Police

Police bill

SANTIAGO – A bill presented by the government aims to grant police more freedom to use lethal force. Human Rights Watch already voiced concerns over the initiative. The discussion of the bill has been postponed due to international concerns.

The government has revived a bill aiming to protect police officers. If it becomes law, the penal code would change in favor of the Carabineros police, the investigative police (PDI), and Gendarmerie, which oversees the prison system.

The bill was set to be discussed on Dec. 17 in the Senate’s Public Security Committee. However, criticism from Human Rights Watch Americas director José Miguel Vivanco led to a postponement. Committee member Felipe Harboe said during a press conference that the bill was on hold until further notice.

The Bill

Announced over a year ago by President Sebastián Piñera, this bill emerged in response to the violence seen during the social protests. Back then Piñera said, “we will not allow attacks against our [security forces] to go with impunity, because they deserve and need protection.”

The bill’s creators suggest excluding the forces from the laws that protect authorities and create special laws that carry harsher sentencing for attacks on them.

The bill also includes a provision that relaxes norms on the use of lethal force. Authorities would be permitted to use arms for protecting another person or to prevent the escape of a detainee. So far, police may use lethal force only if their own life is in immediate danger.

Read more

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International Backlash

Human Rights Watch’s Vivanco said on Twitter that “with this bill, Carabineros could injure or even kill when it is irrational to do so. [It] could even … unintentionally facilitate impunity for the grave violations that took place during the social protests last year.”

Harboe said, “it is always important to listen to international organizations in relation to human rights and see what the international experience in this matter is.”

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