SANTIAGO – The Human Rights Commission from the United Nations has released its report on the allegations of human rights violations in Chile. The main conclusion of the report is similar to the ones released earlier by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch: authorities in Chile have seriously violated human rights during the protests. Although the Chilean government accepted large parts of the report, they demanded a validation of the sources used by the UN team.
A team of UN Human Rights observers visited Chile for three weeks during November and presented their conclusions today in a 30-page report. The overall conclusion: authorities have committed serious human rights violations during the protests in Chile. “These violations include excessive or unnecessary use of force that led to unlawful killings and injuries, torture and ill-treatment, sexual violence, and arbitrary detentions.”
One of the reasons that the number of injured and detained in Chile has run into the thousands, is, according to the report, due to the fact that “police have regularly failed to distinguish between people demonstrating peacefully and violent protesters.”
According to the latest information (on Dec. 12) from the National Institute for Human Rights in Chile, nearly 800 legal actions have been filed against authorities for the excessive use of violence, torture or sexual abuse. The large number coincides with the findings from the UN Human Rights team.
🔴 [Última actualización] Cifras recopiladas directamente por el INDH en observaciones a manifestaciones, comisarías y centros hospitalarios, desde el jueves 17 de octubre hasta el jueves 12 de diciembre de 2019. Sigue el timeline de las cifras INDH aquí https://t.co/YiTEBLbyGr pic.twitter.com/uL2yTxGmkg
— INDH Chile (@inddhh) December 13, 2019
The report covers about 113 documented cases of torture and 24 cases of sexual violence – sometimes committed against minors. Based on those findings, the commission writes that “there are reasonable grounds to believe that, from 18 October onwards, a high number of serious human rights violations have been committed […] These violations include excessive or unnecessary use of force that led to unlawful killings and injuries, torture and ill-treatment, sexual violence, and arbitrary detentions.”
Since the protests started, there have been numerous reports of people getting shot in their eyes by shrapnel and pellets from riot police. As a result, bleeding eyes have become a symbol of the oppression Chilean protesters say they endure during the protests.
After international media reported on the topic, various regional courts demanded a more limited use of rubber bullets during protests. But according to the UN report, it’s not only rubber bullets that have been used improperly during the protests. It notes that while eye injuries mainly resulted from shotgun pellets, some cases were “due to the use of chemical irritants, in particular tear gas and, in some instances, from impacts from tear gas canisters.” This last conclusion comes only days after several protesters were brought in into a Santiago hospital with severe head injuries after getting directly hit by tear gas canisters.
For the Piñera administration, the report comes at the worst time. On Wednesday, his confidant Andrés Chadwick, Secretary of State during the first weeks of the Chilean protests, saw a constitutional accusation against him being approved by the Senate. According to the Senate, Chadwick was as former Interior Minister responsible for the human rights violations in the first weeks. One day later, on Thursday, a constitutional accusation against the president himself was rejected in Congress. However, both accusations showed that Chilean politicians are looking to be the change demanded by the people on the streets.
UPDATE: Government Responds
The government came later today with a response on the report. In a public statement they said they accept the recommendations from the UN Human Rights team and that they will study them carefully. Referring to the documented cases of human rights violations, the government stressed the need of a “validation of the sources of information”.
According to the government, several statements contain wrong information. “The report describes the existence of human rights violations before the ongoing investigations are concluded, within the framework of the rule of law and the country’s democratic institutions.”
For the full report, click here.
Editor-In-Chief Boris van der Spek is the founder of Chile Today. He worked in Colombia, Surinam and the Netherlands as reporter and works with international media during major events, like the social crisis, the elections and the Pope’s visit.