On Human Rights Violations in Chile

As you will have seen from media and social network coverage, Chile is in major political turmoil. For the first time since the end of the Pinochet dictatorship, we have had soldiers on our streets. From October 8 until yesterday, we lived under curfew and in a state of emergency, with our basic constitutional rights suspended. The result has been a wave of human rights violations committed by state agents, including censorship, unlawful imprisonment, torture including sexual violence, disappearances, and deaths. Military and police forces have been unleashed upon a vast majority of citizens protesting peacefully across the country (see links to news coverage below). The state of emergency was lifted, and the military have been withdrawn from the streets since midnight on 27 October.  The protests and savage Police repression, however, continue.

Last Friday, in the largest political demonstration ever seen in this country, more than a million and a half people marched peacefully in the centre of Santiago and in other major cities, demanding urgent reforms such as an end to price hikes for public services, better schools, decent pensions, improved health care, and cheaper medicines. In short, a fairer economic system that works for all Chileans, not just a small minority. Protests are continuing, and police repression is scaling up.

Our concern is for the risk faced by demonstrators (who include children and senior citizens) of violent police repression in the days to come. Human rights violations against peaceful protesters have multiplied and escalated since the protests started on October 18, and we fear they will continue.

At least fifteen people have been killed, according to official figures. Soldiers fired live ammunition against protestors, and police have used rubber bullets and birdshot indiscriminately. Over 1,230 people have been injured and are now in hospitals, 127 with eye injuries, according the INDH, the official human rights monitor. Many have lost eyes after being struck in the face by rubber bullets or birdshot. The Chilean Red Cross and university medical student volunteers are providing first aid but themselves are at risk of police violence.

3,535 people, including 375 children and adolescents have been detained. And there are disturbing reports of the torture and sexual abuse by police of detainees, with 76 judicial accusations of torture and over 18 of sexual abuse.  Each judicial accusation implies one or more cases of unlawful action by state agents.

Here are some links with further information:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/oct/27/chile-hundreds-shot-and-beaten-street-protests

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-50197673

https://www.dw.com/en/santiago-protests-1-million-people-take-part-in-the-biggest-march-in-chile/a-50996118

https://www.afp.com/en/news/3954/thousands-chileans-strike-protest-death-toll-hits-18-doc-1lo2vt3

https://edition.cnn.com/2019/10/21/americas/chile-protests-deaths-intl/index.html

https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-chile-protests/truck-drivers-add-to-pineras-headaches-in-protest-stricken-chile-idUKKBN1X41NH

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/10/chile-amnistia-internacional-envia-carta-al-presidente-pinera/

What can you do?

Write an open letter to:

  1. President Sebastian Piñera, Secretary of Education Marcela Cubillos, with copies to the Ennio Vivaldi, President of the Consortium of State Universities (Consorcio de Universidades del Estado de Chile, CUECH evivaldi@med.uchile.cl) and Aldo Valle, President of the Council of University Presidents of Chilean Universities (Consejo de Rectores de las Universidades Chilenas, CRUCH, rector@uv.cl). Make this open letter public in your own community.
  2. Email your local representatives, Ministers or Secretaries of Foreign Affairs, and diplomatic representative in Chile asking them to urge the Chilean government to ensure that the police respect basic human rights such as freedom from arbitrary arrest, torture, and the right to peaceful protest. These are rights the Chilean government is obliged to guarantee under international human rights treaties.
  3. Support Amnesty International initiatives.
  4. Call for judicial investigations to hold all those responsible for human rights abuses to account.
  5. Share this appeal on social networks and among friends and colleagues.
  6. Post it on university or faculty noticeboards.
  7. Send it to your contacts in the media, asking for its publication.

Thank you for your solidarity at this crucial time for our country.

– Soledad Falabella