Four years on from the repressive police response to the social protests and victims have yet to receive full reparations, no progress has been made in the structural reform of the Carabineros (Chile’s national police), and there is continuing impunity in the country, said Amnesty International on the anniversary of the outbreak of the social unrest in Chile.
“Reforming the Carabineros is the number one guarantee of non-repetition that the state must undertake. The victims and society as a whole must know that the authorities are acting to ensure that the crimes perpetrated during the social unrest cannot be repeated. Unfortunately, the government’s commitment to this issue now raises more doubts than certainties. It must urgently understand the need for progress in a profound, structural reform of the Carabineros,” said Rodrigo Bustos, executive director of Amnesty International Chile.
Although Gabriel Boric’s government has set out some plans for policing, such as seeking to regulate the use of force when maintaining public order and public security within the country, structural reform of the Carabineros has lagged behind. Amnesty International has repeatedly warned that the military nature and organizational structure of this institution constitute a major limitation to the performance of its functions, as was reflected in the widespread human rights violations committed during the social protests of 2019.
Reforming of the Carabineros is the number one guarantee of non-repetition that the state must undertake.Rodrigo Bustos, executive director of Amnesty International Chile
Four years on from the social crisis in Chile that left people dead, injured and maimed due to the disproportionate use of force by the Carabineros, Amnesty International is today launching a new report entitled Reform to move forward. Recommendations to reform Carabineros from a human rights perspective. It explains the need for in-depth reform of the Carabineros through regulatory and cultural change. Proper policing keeps people and society safe, so there is no reason why those responsible should not give due priority to such an urgent and necessary reform.
The measures adopted by the state to provide reparations to the victims of human rights violations committed during the social unrest have been limited, with no comprehensive reparations policy in place. Amnesty International calls on the state to produce a public policy for comprehensive reparations based on international standards and to provide adequate measures to guarantee its implementation and continuity. This policy must be covered by the national budget and have genuine, transparent and public mechanisms for the participation of victims.
“The scenario is undoubtedly bleaker than in previous years, with only 0.2% of victims of human rights violations, out of the 10,568 complaints filed, having obtained justice. The 27 existing convictions represent a worryingly small number. In addition, we are facing a countdown to the statute of limitations for cases of police brutality, which means that a significant number of these cases will no longer be investigated once five years have passed. In fact, under domestic law, the state is able to use the five-year period to avoid the criminal accountability of its agents in most cases, something that Amnesty International rejects outright,” said Rodrigo Bustos.
Amnesty International documented the cruelty of state violence in its report Eyes on Chile. Police violence and command responsibility during the period of social unrest, which notes that the resources and techniques implemented by the Carabineros commanders led to widespread violations of the right to personal integrity. And yet, to date, no senior Carabineros commander has been charged for their alleged responsibility.
The time has come for the Prosecutor’s Office to decide whether there is merit in charging senior commanders for their actions and omissions in managing the social unrest.Rodrigo Bustos, executive director of Amnesty International Chile
The responsibility of the Carabineros’ commanders can be seen in the fulfilment of three assumptions that are provided for under international human rights law. First, there were multiple sources through which the commanders knew or should have known that human rights violations were occurring under their command. In other words, these people knew about the police violence. Second, the Carabineros commanders retained effective control over their units within the institution, meaning they had the ability to prevent abuses but failed to do so. And, third, the commanders failed to take sufficient measures to prevent abuses, in particular with regard to the use of lethal ammunition, the lack of adequate operational protocols, unchanged operational plans, imprecise orders and the absence of sanctions.
“The time has come for the Prosecutor’s Office to decide whether there is merit in charging senior commanders for their actions and omissions in managing the social unrest. The initiation of criminal proceedings is key to ensuring full accountability and, four years on from the social unrest, it’s important to shed the cloak of impunity and act in favour of justice,” said Rodrigo Bustos.