Amnesty International: Police brutality goes unpunished in Chile

Santiago, May 31 (EFE).- Nearly four years after Chile was rocked by massive protests against economic inequality, less than 1 percent of the 10,936 accusations of police brutality have led to convictions, the Chilean chapter of Amnesty International said Wednesday.

“The Chilean state shows great weaknesses in the matter of human rights. Impunity has been the general rule. They don’t take responsibility for the victims of the social eruption or provide guarantees that similar events don’t occur again,” Amnesty International Chile director Rodrigo Bustos told EFE.

The organization says that only 130 criminal cases have been brought against police officers for their actions during the uprising, even though the Attorney General’s Office itself put the number of human rights violations by police at nearly 11,000.

What began as a protest against a small metro fare hike turned into a movement that brought 1.2 million people – more than 5 percent of the Chilean population – into the heart of Santiago on Oct. 25, 2019, to demand a more equitable economic model in a country where the richest 1 percent control more than a quarter of national wealth.

Thirty-four people died and thousands more were hurt in the response of the security forces to the largest mobilizations Chile has witnessed since the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

At least 460 people suffered serious eye injuries at the hands of the Carabineros, Chile’s national militarized police force.

Bustos noted that in 4,402 instances, prosecutors examining allegations of police brutality asked judges to apply the Istanbul Protocol, a United Nations document setting out guidelines for investigation and documentation of torture and other cruel treatment.

“There were cases of homicides, of brutal beatings, people with eye injuries, adolescent girls stripped naked in police stations,” he said.

Amnesty International is urging authorities to ensure that such abuses don’t happen again by undertaking fundamental reform of the Carabineros and enacting laws governing the use of force by police.

“Regrettably, the latest measures approved to reduce crime in Chile don’t go in the direction of protecting police or the citizens, rather they give a kind of blank check to officers to use force without limits,” Bustos said.

Amid an increase in violent crime, the Chilean Congress recently passed a law – known popularly as the “easy trigger” bill – that gives police more latitude in deciding whether to use their guns.

“Any citizen may in the future face a wrongful use of force by an agent of the state,” Bustos said. “In a democracy, it is fundamental that force is clearly regulated and that the police officer knows how he or she has to use the weapon.” EFE


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