Amnesty International assesses human rights in Chile

Concluding a one-week visit to Chile on Friday, Amnesty International’s Secretary General Irene Khan issued an assessment of the human rights situation in the country and a set of recommendations addressed to the Chilean government.

“Despite some positive steps taken by successive democratic governments in the last 18 years, Chile’s record on human rights leaves much room for improvement,” said Ms. Khan.

“We call on President Bachelet to use the remaining 17 months of her time in office to create a decisive and lasting legacy of human rights reform.”

Irene Khan and her delegation met survivors and relatives of victims of torture, killings and enforced disappearances committed during the Pinochet regime and with Indigenous Peoples in San Tiago, Temuco and Calama, and with local officials, government ministries and members of the Congress.

At a meeting with President Bachelet, Amnesty International presented her with a memorandum containing a series of recommendations to improve human rights in Chile.

The main recommendations presented in the Memorandum to the government are to:

Remove the obstacles to truth, justice and reparations for the victims and survivors of human rights abuses committed during the Pinochet regime
End the marginalization and discrimination of Indigenous Peoples
Ratify key international human rights treaties
Fulfil the obligation to develop a comprehensive national human rights plan and establish a national human rights institution according to international standards

“While President Bachelet assured us of her commitment, Congress remains ambivalent and in some cases has been a major stumbling block in the ratification of international treaties and adoption of legal changes to make human rights a reality for all Chileans,” said Irene Khan.

“Major cultural and institutional changes are urgently needed if Chile is to make a clean break from its past and successfully tackle the human rights challenges of today.  All political leaders and sectors of society share that responsibility and must show stronger will and commitment.”

Justice and impunity
Despite some positive developments, there remains a large legacy of “unfinished business” on ending impunity and rendering truth, justice and reparations for past human crimes. Amnesty International is calling on Chile to nullify the 1978 Amnesty Law, to introduce legislation on human rights crimes without limitations, and to extend reparations to all victims of human rights violations, including those living outside the country.

“If Chile is to put to rest the ghosts of the past, the government must take – and Congress must support – concrete and immediate steps to remove the laws from the military era and change the institutional culture in some sectors of state institutions that are hampering the process of truth, justice and reparations,” added Irene Khan.

“Impunity for human rights crimes is unfortunately not only a matter of the past but persists also today.” Ms. Khan called on the government to reform the Military Code of Justice and to bring Chile in line with international standards by ensuring that all human rights violations are prosecuted in civilian courts.

Indigenous Peoples
Describing her visit to Temuco and Calama to meet the Mapuche, Atacameno and Diaguita peoples, Irene Khan said: “Indigenous peoples are severely discriminated and marginalized in Chile, and see themselves as the victims of an economic strategy that is destroying their lives and livelihoods.”

Amnesty International has welcomed Chile’s ratification of Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization, and is calling on the government to ensure that legislation is adopted by Congress to implement the Convention and address the legal anomalies that are depriving the Indigenous Peoples of their human rights.

Amnesty International is calling on the prosecution authorities not to apply anti-terrorist law to acts related to the Indigenous Peoples’ struggle for land, and for the police to respect international standards in policing the communities.

Creating a lasting legacy for human rights
Amnesty International has welcomed Chile’s constructive engagement in the United Nations and in regional issues, and is calling on the government to ratify the Statute of the International Criminal Court and the UN and International Conventions on Enforced Disappearances.

“Chile played a major in the drafting of these treaties and it is therefore hugely disappointing that their ratification is bogged down in Congress.”

“If Chile is to retain its credibility as a major player on the international stage, it must close the gap between its constructive contribution internationally to human rights and its slow and inadequate implementation of human rights domestically.”