How Does a Constitutional Accusation Work?

SANTIAGO – Parliamentarians from the Frente Amplio and Communist parties will officially present a constitutional accusation against President Piñera, with 15 signatures on the petition. This measure seeks to hold the president responsible for alleged human rights violations committed during the recent Chilean social crisis. If it succeeds, he will be removed from office.

The Communist party (PC) and the Frente Amplio party (FA) will present a constitutional accusation against President Sebastián Piñera. By this action, the two political parties seek to hold Piñera responsible for alleged human violations committed by police forces and the military when various regions were under a state of emergency and curfew.

The underlying petition, which only needed 10 signatures to be presented, achieved a total of 15 signatures, between the PC, FA, and Convergencia Social parties. Pamela Jiles, the PC parliamentarian who initiated the signature gathering, celebrated the support. Among those who put their signatures Gabriel Boric, Gonzalo Winter, Tomás Hirsch, Gael Yeomans, and Giorgio Jackson.

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What’s a Constitutional Accusation?

Through a constitutional accusation, parliamentarians are allowed to initiate a political trial against a higher authority. An authority can be constitutionally accused if he or she has acted against the Constitution, or abused citizens and their human rights from their position of power.

A constitutional accusation does not end in a criminal punishment. If it is approved, the accused is simply removed from office and forbidden to take any other office for the next five years. If, however, there are any specific crimes committed, it is also possible to bring the accused to justice in a separate trial.

What’s Next?

In the constitutional accusation, President Piñera is blamed for alleged military crimes and human rights violations against Chilean citizens, in the context of the country’s recent social crisis. The accusation claims they are both responsible for the state of emergency and curfew declarations that put police and military forces on the streets and that they did not do enough to preserve the safety of the civil community in doing so.

Now that the petition has achieved more than 10 signatures, the constitutional accusation will be presented to the Chamber of Deputies. Five other random parliamentarians will be selected to revise the accusation, and after several sessions of discussion, the Chamber will vote.

If the accusation is approved, it will pass to the Senate, which will act as a judge in the second stage of approval. The accused will then be allowed to object and make use of lawyers to defend themselves. The Senate’s revision ends with another round of voting.

Ordinarily, if the Senate approves the accusation by simple majority (50% + one additional vote), the accused will be removed from office; however, if the accused is the president, he will only be removed if 2/3 of the Senate vote in favor of the accusation.

Politicians who signed the petition were emphatic in demanding political consequences for Piñera and Chadwick. PC parliamentarian Karol Cariola, whose party put nine votes on the table, told Cooperativa, “For us [this accusation] is an ethical obligation, we won’t let human violations go unseen.” In a CNN article, Convergencia Social President Gael Yeomans announced that they “won’t allow this government to pass unpunished.”

Update: Curfew Lifted in All Regions in Chile

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