Delivery of results and preliminary recommendations
Santiago, 11 November 2019
The mission of International human rights observers visited Chile from November 6 to 11, 2019, within the framework of the protests that took place from last October 18. First of all, we would like to thank the different human rights and civil society organisations in Chile that have convened and organised this visit to learn about the political context of the social protest and to document the serious allegations of human rights violations. We also thank the different Chilean authorities who received us and shared relevant information.
We have visited the cities of Santiago,Valparaíso and Temuco to meet with human rights and civil society organisations, collectives and groups that have organised in response to demonstrations, victims and State institutions such as the National Institute of Human Rights, the Public Defender’s Office, the National Prosecutor's Office, the Children’s Defender’s Office, the Under Secretary of Human Rights of the Ministry of Justice, and the Supreme Court.
The objective of this preliminary report is to present the main findings and urgent recommendations identified by the mission, based on the testimonies of victims and witnesses and information provided by civil society organisations and public authorities. Through testimonies and first-hand observation, we see that the security forces use the elements of deterrence in an uncontrolled, non-gradual and indiscriminate way.
The protocol approved in March 2019 regulated some conditions that establish when Carabineros de Chile can use the various means of law enforcement. However, in practice, the principles of ultimate ratio, proportionality and gradual use of force are completely absent in the actions of the police and other security forces.
The Mission is particularly concerned about the way in which less lethal weapons are being used by police, with the intention of injuring and punishing protesters and without complying with minimum standards of gradual approach and proportionality.
As is public knowledge, more than 200 people have been victims of severe eye trauma, impairing their vision for life.
From the testimonies we have received, and our direct observation of the demonstrations, as well as from what has been shown in the audiovisual media, there is no doubt that the Carabineros use riot guns without adherence to the protocol in force, which only allows it as a last resort to protect the physical integrity of third parties or law enforcement personnel.
In addition to not complying with this protocol, which says when you can shoot, even more worrying is how Carabineros are shooting: not by pointing at an angle to the legs, but by aiming horizontally at the head and torso of the protesters, which does not meet any norm of the rational use of force.
What was announced on November 10, 2019 by the Carabineros is not only insufficient to end this practice we have seen in recent weeks, as it does not establish clear rules that prohibit firing horizontally and to the torso, but worse, it aggravates the situation and grants more power to law enforcement to attack and injure protesters.
The protocol approved in March 2019 only allows such practices as a last resort to protect the physical integrity of police and third parties. Only their physical integrity. In their statement, Carabineros announced that these weapons will be used when there is a risk for the life of police or civilians, but added that they will be used in the face of a“manifest threat to public and private assets.”
Allowing the use of less lethal weapons that have very serious consequences on the life and physical integrity of people to protect public and private property is a setback with respect to current regulations and does not conform to international norms for the rational use of force.
In general, we have seen that during demonstrations law enforcement use tear gas, water lance cars and riot guns not to repel an attack or disperse a violent demonstration, but directly to punish protesters. In the context of mass demonstrations, the arrests made by police officers have been completely indiscriminate, detaining people who are expressing themselves peacefully and not necessarily those who perform acts of violence. On many occasions, arrests occur after protests are over and target people on the streets who are returning home.
We have verified that post-demonstration arrests do not have the necessary safeguards to ensure the protection of the rights of persons deprived of their liberty. Similarly, the minimum conditions are not ensured so that injured people can have their injuries checked confidentially by medical personnel, nor are international protocols applied to detect cases of torture and ill-treatment.
Additionally, detainees do not have access to legal advice in the first hours of detention. In many cases, the Public Defender’sOffice does not contact the detainees until the control hearing the day after their arrest.
At the same time, the prosecutors do not appear in the police stations and do not carry out any control of the conditions of legality of the detention, or on possible violations by police officers against the rights and integrity of the persons arrested.
To all this, we must add those people who are held by the security forces, temporarily deprived of their liberty, without their detention being subsequently formalised.
These minimum safeguards are intended to prevent persons deprived of their liberty from being subjected to ill-treatment or torture during the first hours of detention, as has been the case in recent weeks.
From meetings with organisations and public authorities, as well as from the direct testimonies we’ve collected, we have heard of ill-treatment and serious cases of torture that have occurred at the time of arrest, during the transfer in police vans and at police stations.
Numerous testimonies on different types of torture occurred in detention - during transfers, and at the same police station - were received. The torture described goes from blows with an open hand and / or police truncheon, knees or kicks, in some cases by various agents, different forms of physical neutralisation and even hangings that in some cases have resulted in loss of consciousness. Many of these were performed after verifying initial injuries. In other cases, there was prolonged use of handcuffs in various positions, upper limb torsions, use of irritating gas, deprivation of water and food, and exposure to cold temperatures with many of the detainees arriving wet without the possibility of changing clothes.
Cases of sexual violence, such as prolonged undressing accompanied by squats, or sexual rape performed with objects such as weapons or police truncheons, inflicted on men, women and even minors deserve special attention. Additionally, various forms of psychological torture have been described, mainly death threats, threats of gang rape, or of physical assault on family members. These threats have also been made with the goal of deterring detainees from filing complaints at a later stage. There have even been statements of subsequent harassment of victims by police.
In other words, most of the figures presented by the authorities are based on cases of complaints formalised in some way in order to initiate a criminal proceeding, meaning that these figures do not account for all cases of violations.
We received a large number of testimonies from victims of violence who hadn’t filed complaints. In many cases for fear of reprisals, for post-detention harassment, mainly in Temuco and Valparaíso, andin many other cases for lack of trust that the allegations would have any concrete effect.
The actions deployed by the government have not aimed to de-escalate the conflict and end the recurring practices of torture and ill-treatment that have been verified throughout the country in the framework of the social protests in recent weeks.
Among the different testimonies received, the involvement of vulnerable groups, such as minors, women, older adults, people with disabilities, migrants and members of the LGBTIQ+ community, deserves special attention. Although the actions have been carried out indiscriminately, we have been able to verify threats of deportation to migrants, of rape, of death, as well as homophobic, racist and misogynistic insults. Also, the mass involvement of minors who have not been protected by any of the specific safeguards that should protect these groups deserves particular attention.
After interviewing Mapuche communities and receiving reports from civil society, we identify patterns of repression and criminalisation of their activities that are now applied to the Chilean society as a whole in the context of current demonstrations. We have solid and consistent information on the excessive and disproportionate use of force against members of the Mapuche people at the time of their arrest by (though not exclusively) groups of SpecialPolice Operations of Carabineros. Mapuche families who have suffered torture, intimidation, even those who were irreparably injured or have deceased relatives in unclear contexts are re-victimised by constantly hearing shots, helicopters flying overhead and experiencing situations that re-traumatise them.
1. Immediate demilitarisation of the management of protests and demonstrations, prioritising mediation channels and use of non-violent measures, applying the principles of precaution, necessity and proportionality in the use of force.Until an independent evaluation reviews the protocols for action in the light of the widespread human rights violations that ensued, the use of firearms (shotguns) must be suspended and “less than lethal” equipment (tear gas, pepper spray, water cannons) must stop being used in a generalised manner and with the illegal objective of causing damage to people.
2. During and after the demonstrations, it is recommended that unannounced inspections be carried out in places of detention managed by the Carabineros, Investigations Police and the Justice Centers by the Public Defender’s Office, the National Prosecutor's Office, the Judiciary and the National Institute of Human Rights- INDH. These inspections must include confidential interviews with persons deprived of liberty in order to detect situations of torture and ill-treatment, assist victims, provide them with adequate protection against reprisals, investigate the facts detected and punish perpetrators administratively and criminally.
3. It is recommended that all persons deprived of liberty have systematically access to a medical checkin public health institutions to verify injuries, that this occurs with the required privacy, and that the health record be completed by health personnel. It is also recommended that the medical action be documented, with special emphasis on the proactive detection of injuries, in accordance with the Istanbul Protocol, that the patient-detainee’s compliance be expressly recorded, and that the report, based on confidentiality, be delivered in a sealed envelope addressed to the guarantee judge. Moreover, the health system is also urged to keep a record of detection of injuries compatible with torture and ill-treatment and of allegations received by the persons deprived of liberty examined.
4. It is recommended that the ChileanState provides all the facilities to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights – IACHR – for it to conduct its on-site visit in the country.
5. It is recommended that during and after the demonstrations it is ensured that journalists, human rights observers and health care personnel and volunteers can carry out their duties in a proper manner and that the attacks and arrests against them cease.
6. It is recommended to carry out an investigation by an independent body on the human rights violations that are being committed and the adoption of immediate disciplinary / criminal measures in cases where there are public officials identified in irregular behaviours that violate human rights, particularly the right to life and personal integrity.
7. It is recommended to strengthen the work of the National Institute for Human Rights (INDH) at the national level by ensuring that there are no obstacles to the full development of its functions, in particular in controlling the situation of deprivation of liberty during the first hours of detention and in protecting against torture and ill-treatment.
8. It is recommended that the State ofChile and the INDH finalise the effective implementation of the NationalMechanism for the Prevention of Torture. Likewise, that conditions be ensured so that civil society organisations can effectively and freely fulfil their role of protection of human rights, providing documentation, records and contact with persons deprived of liberty.
9. Noting that the social protests in Chile in recent weeks are mainly grounded in a demand for human rights, including the right to self-determination, we urge the Chilean State to seek ways for their legal and political recognition as a manner to guarantee its full exercise by all the people who inhabit this territory and by its citizens.