SANTIAGO – The National Institute of Human Rights (INDH) director Sergio Micco was asked to resign by the institute’s workers association. The request came after a Canal 13 interview in which Micco denied “systematic” human rights violations by police forces in the context of the recent political crisis. The association now accuses Micco of betraying his role as a human rights defender, in favor of personal and political interests.
The Association of Workers of the National Institute of Human Rights (AFFINDH) asked INDH Director Sergio Micco to resign, shortly after his interview with “Mesa Central” on Canal 13 was released on Nov. 3.
In the interview, Micco was asked if there were “systematic” violations of human rights against Chilean citizens, to which he responded, “no.” This infuriated the AFFINDH, which then asked Micco and his entire council to resign.
The AFFINDH posted a public statement on Twitter explaining the decision: “We reject [Micco’s declarations], as they minimize severe human rights violations that occurred in Chile, in the context of the current process of social protest. … We denounce [the existence] of severe, massive, and systematic violations against human rights violations, from governmental agents.”
La Asociación de Funcionarias y Funcionarios del INDH (AFFINDH) declaramos lo siguiente respecto a los últimos acontecimientos que han involucrado la labor del INDH. pic.twitter.com/1hrHNGjHPU
— AFFINDH (@affindh) November 6, 2019
Today, the Missing Detainees Relatives Group—an association of families of dictatorship victims—seconded the AFFINDH petition for Micco’s resign, telling FMDos that he “is not responding to his duties” and that he “aims to clean the image of a repressive government.”
Micco’s Words “Affect the Work of the INDH”
Micco was invited to Canal 13’s program, “Mesa Central,” to talk about allegations of excessive use of force by Chilean police and the related investigations.
In the interview, Micco talked about documented injuries, observed behaviors from police forces and protesters through the last weeks, and human rights violations—which he confirmed had occurred and were being investigated.
A triggering moment came when he was asked about the existence of “systematic” violations of human rights in Chile. In the Canal 13 recording, Micco denied such an idea: “Conceptually, the systematic violation of human rights implies a [concerted effort] between different institutions, where laws are created or public policies are made that directly or intentionally aim to violate human rights. If you ask me, as director of the INDH, I would say no. Whoever says otherwise has to prove it.”
The declaration sparked immediate reaction—and rejection—from his team. “It is absolutely false to say that such crimes can only be committed through explicit and concerted State terrorism policies. Massive or systematic violations of human rights can occur within formally democratic contexts and do not always respond to active policies, but also to the lack of adequate policies, or to tolerance of human rights violations,” the AFFINDH said in its public statement, as reported by El Dínamo.
The AFFINDH had additional, more pointed concerns. It said Micco’s words “have irremediably affected the observation work we do, as well as the credibility of our actions.”
The AFFINDH also lamented that, despite meetings between the INDH, the president, and the former minister of the interior, as well as with the police high command, “[we, as] INDH observers have faced obstacles to our work, denial of access to enclosures, intimidations, threats and verbal and physical aggression (getting shot with pellets) in the exercise of our functions, by the police.”
Pressure Mounts Over Alleged Human Rights Violations in Chile
Alleged Human Rights Violations Now an International Topic
As reported by Canal 13, according to the INDH, as of Nov. 2:
- 20 people have died from various causes.
- >150 people have suffered eye injuries (including blinding) due to rubber bullets and tear gas canisters fired by the police and military.
- >1,500 have been injured.
The Red Cross, however, says the total injured is much higher. “We can responsibly say they are more than 2,500 up to this date… There are many [injured people] who won’t go to hospitals because they are scared to be detained after. We just cure them and send them home, but then they will only appear in our statistics. They will not appear in any [hospital register],” Chile’s Red Cross president, Patricio Acosta, told Cooperativa.
The human rights issue in Chile is now an international topic, with an increasing number of complaints, internal and external investigations, including one by the UN Human Rights Commission, as well as endless stream of accusations and videos circulating via social media.
Chilean mass media has also suffered a loss of credibility in recent weeks, and Micco’s appearance on Canal 13 did nothing to reverse that trend.
Camila Huecho is a journalism student at Universidad de La Frontera in Temuco, currently interning at Chile Today. As a freelance illustrator and Fellow at the Melton Foundation, she works to bring information and cultures together through communications and art.