Eyes on Chile
POLICE VIOLENCE AND COMMAND RESPONSIBILITY DURING THE PERIOD OF SOCIAL UNREST
Following one year of rigorous research, Amnesty International believes that the Attorney General’s Office should open criminal investigations against commanders of the Chilean police force, Carabineros de Chile , for their role in human rights violations committed during the country’s period of social unrest starting 18 October 2019.
I gave my eyes so people would wake up
Part 1: What happened in Chile?
In mid-October 2019 millions took to the streets throughout Chile to demand equality and social and economic rights, including decent pensions, housing, quality public education, and healthcare. President Sebastian Piñera responded with a state of emergency decree and deployed the army and police to suppress the protests.
Amnesty International sent a crisis team to the country. It documented human rights violations perpetrated by the security forces. This report investigates 12 emblematic cases of death, torture and injuries caused by agents of Carabineros between 18 October and 30 November. It also analyzes more than 200 pieces video evidence showing abuses by Carabineros officials. The report concludes the responsibility of Carabineros commanders for the human rights violations that took place on their watch.
Part 2: People demanded dignity; police responded with violence
Amnesty International found that during the protests Carabineros officials deliberately used excessive force against protesters, in contravention of international law. Police used this force to disperse and deter demonstrations, to harm protesters or, at the very least, knowing that this would be the result.
Injuries and attacks, constituting violations of the right to physical integrity, were generalized, not exceptional. They also meet the standard that defines torture and ill treatment.
Carabineros officials failed to adhere to these standards.
During the 44 days analyzed in this report, Carabineros used force inappropriately, on a daily basis, as shown by the numbers of people who suffered injuries or filed legal complaints against Carabineros throughout the crisis:
WE DOCUMENTED THE HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS SUFFERED BY 12 VICTIMS OF CARABINEROS' UNLAWFUL USE OF FORCE
39-years-old. Died after being beaten by police officers on 20 October, in Santiago. Died as a result of his injuries.
24-years-old. Beaten and raped by police officers on 21 October, in Santiago. Suffered multiple injuries as a result.
30-years-old. Beaten by police officers on 20 October, in Santiago. Suffered multiple injuries as a result.
55-years-old. Beaten by police officers on 22 October, in Santiago. Loss of eyesight in one eye and numerous serious injuries as a result.
58-years-old. Shot by police using riot shotguns on 29 October, while acting as a human rights observer in Santiago. Impacted by six rubberized buckshots. Multiple injuries as a result.
21-years-old. Shot by police using riot shotguns on 8 November, in Santiago. Impacted by rubberized buckshots in both eyes. Left permanently blind as a result.
24-years-old. Shot by police officers using riot shotguns on 21 October, in Santiago. Impacted by 19 rubberized buckshots. Multiple injuries and permanent loss of vision in one eye as a result.
15-years-old. Shot by police using riot shotguns on 20 October, in Santiago. Permanent loss of vision in one eye as a result.
45-years-old. Shot by police using riot shotguns on 23 October, in Concepción. Permanent loss of vision in one eye as a result.
14-years-old. Shot by police using riot shotguns on 22 October, in Tarapacá. Burst right eye and permanent loss of vision in that eye as a result.
36-years-old. Shot by police in the face with a teargas grenade on 26 November, in Santiago. Left permanently blind in both eyes and lost sense of smell and taste as a result.
24-years-old. Shot by police in the face with a teargas grenade on 28 October, in Santiago. Burst right eye and loss of vision in that eye as a result.
Part 3: Commanders could and should have avoided the violence, but they didn’t
Just because those in charge of officers on the ground aren’t directly responsible for the harm caused to a person protesting in the street, does not free them of ultimate responsibility for the human rights violations committed on their watch. Command responsibility exists when commanders knew or should have known about violations and failed to take steps to prevent them or punish perpetrators.
Human rights standards require that the responsibility of commanders for human rights violations be investigated when three criteria are met:
Although there was considerable property damage , as well as injuries to Carabineros officers, the disproportionate number of protestors injured, case evidence, and the images that repeatedly show unnecessary and disproportionate use of force, support the notion that the violence responded to a high-level strategy from commanders rather than being solely the responsibility of individual officers.
This report analyzes the responsibility of the following commanders in the Carabineros command structure:
First criteria set by international standards: Commanders knew about the violence
There were multiple sources by which commanders knew or should have known that human rights violations were taking place on their watch:
1. Communication from actors outside of Carabineros
During the protests, social networks and the media were full of information about possible human rights violations committed by Carabineros. This was often done tagging official accounts. In addition to publicly available information, Carabineros received information regarding potential abuses committed by its officials from the National Human Rights Institute (INDH) and the National Prosecutor's Office, which passed information about complaints filed against members of the institution to its authorities or made the information publicly available.
The following number of complaints were made against Carabineros between 18 October and 30 November:
Legal complaints (Prosecutors Office) - 4170
Human rights complaints (IHDH) - 577
2. Official internal channels in Carabineros
There are a range of internal channels within Carabineros that would have meant that commanders knew or should have known about potential human rights violations being committed by members of the institution.
- The Director of Order and Security, responsible for controlling policing operations across the country, received daily reports related to injuries from departments such as “O.S.1.”.
- The high-level commanders of the institution had access to a range of internal records related to specific policing operations taking place across the country, including information about the use of shotguns and other weapons, injuries sustained, and other information, as well as having access to video footage of these operations from police body cameras.
- The Complaints and Suggestions Department of Carabineros received 351 complaints about police conduct in the context of the crisis between 18 October and 30 November.
As of 19 November, Carabineros internal reporting systems registered the following number of injuries caused by members of the institution:
- 1011 people injured overall
- 481 injured by shotguns
Even though these figures are much lower than those recorded by other institutions, it should have been clear to Carabineros commanders that there was a problem.
3. Internal monitoring of operations
While strategic commanders had access to information regarding operations through different channels and technologies, operational commanders were able to monitor the progress of operations in real time even more closely. Amnesty International found that commanders such as the Head of the Metropolitan Zone (STGO-1) or the Head of the Control, Order and Public Intervention Zone (STGO-4) in Santiago monitored operations from communications centers such as the ‘Central GAMA’ or the Command and Control Unit of the Carabineros Communications Center (CENCO). Other operational commanders, such as the Head of Special Forces (G-1), or his deputies G-2 and G-3 supervised operations directly on the ground.
These commanders therefore had first-hand and real-time knowledge of the behavior of their subordinate officers, which should have alerted them to the fact that human rights abuses were being committed.
Second criteria set by international standards: Commanders had the capacity to prevent abuses
As demonstrated by the above organizational chart, Carabineros de Chile is a hierarchical institution in which subordinates are required to follow instructions from their superiors. The investigation conducted by Amnesty International confirmed that commanders within Carabineros de Chile maintained effective control over units within the institution throughout the period analyzed in this report.
Third criteria set by international standards: Commanders failed to take sufficient measures to prevent abuses
Commanders failed to act in the following areas; ammunition, protocols, operational planning, orders, and discipline.
1. Commanders should have banned harmful ammunition, but didn’t
The ammunition used by Carabineros during the protests had notoriously indiscriminate and harmful effects. Shotguns were loaded with rubberized buckshots, comprised of a mixture of metal and rubber, which pierced human skin and flesh, in contravention of international standards. The ammunition was also highly indiscriminate, with the 12 buckshots in each cartridge dispersing widely upon release.
The rubberized buckshots are twice as heavy as standard rubber pellets and impact with at least 12 times the force of a standard rubber round.
The General Director did not limit the use of rubberized buckshot ammunition until its composition was publicly exposed and the number of eye injuries exceeded 250 cases.
2. Commanders should have adopted appropriate operational protocols, but didn’t
Commanders had the responsibility to ensure that officials operated in accordance with international standards by implementing adequate operational protocols. Our investigation found widespread deficiencies in the protocols and procedures adopted, particularly with regards to the circumstances under which less lethal weapons can be used.
The General Director and the Deputy General Director’s responsibilities specifically include the development of the institution's policies and doctrines. It was not until more than a month after the protests began, that these protocols were modified in a substantive manner, and only with regards to the use of shotguns.
3. Commanders should have adjusted operational planning, but didn’t
Neither the “National Plana Mayor” (a body comprised of high-ranking Carabineros officials created to advise the General Director during the crisis), nor the Director of Order and Security incorporated lessons learnt from a human rights perspective into the strategic planning of the institution in response to the protests.
Operational commanders, at least in the Santiago Metropolitan Area, did not modify their operational plans. These remained without substantive changes beyond logistics from the beginning of the crisis.
The following map demonstrates how Special Forces units in the Metropolitan Area used force in an abusive manner throughout the crisis, demonstrating a lack of adaptation of operational planning by this division’s commanders:
Moreover, Amnesty International found evidence that the same officers who used force unnecessarily or excessively, remained in their positions, operating daily, committing similar abuses on multiple occasions.
4. Commanders should have issued precise and unique orders, but didn’t
The General Director, Deputy General Director and Director of Order and Security gave imprecise and repetitive orders, despite the rising injuries among the population. They did not give precise instructions aimed at ensuring respect for human rights, as the situation changed on the ground.
This chart demonstrates how despite continuous injuries, orders surrounding shotguns remained static and ineffective until 19 November.
Operational commanders in the Santiago Metropolitan Zone also failed to give effective orders to prevent human rights abuses by the forces under their control.
5. Commanders should have punished abuses and removed officers who were responsible for human rights violations from service, but didn’t
Far from punishing harmful behaviors, strategic and operational commanders appeared to tolerate and even endorse them.
There are a few things I want to tell you. You have complete support, complete backing from this General Director. How can I prove it? I will not remove anyone from service for policing procedures. No one. Even if they force me, I won't do it... You have my full backing, full support, legally and administratively. You can count on us
The following chart demonstrates the limited number of sanctions issued by commanders of the institution despite the number of potential human rights abuses that occurred:
The investigations carried out were highly deficient. Even in cases where officials admitted their responsibility, sanctions were not issued. Where sanctions were issued, they were often not for the human rights abuse itself, but for other administrative breaches.
Carabineros concealed information in the administrative investigation about the participation of G-3, who has later been accused of being responsible for Gustavo's injuries. Carabineros sanctioned him months later for not following the image download protocol of his GO-PRO body camera, but not for Gustavo's injuries.
Carabineros sanctioned two officials nine months later for not helping her, but not for the injuries that caused her blindness and loss of smell and taste.
13 officials were prosecuted for the torture inflicted on Moisés. However, these officials were not administratively sanctioned, and their case are still "in progress".
Alejandro Torres and Renzo Inostroza
Their alleged aggressors admitted their guilt before the Attorney's General Office. However, they remained in the same position and the administrative proceedings against them are still "in progress".
Part 4: The executive had a role in all of this
Although our research does not analyze the possible responsibilities of other actors beyond Carabineros, we do consider that the lack of control exercised over Carabineros by the Executive Branch of President Piñera’s government requires that all political, administrative or even criminal responsibilities be defined to the highest level possible, including all those individuals who, in their position as guarantors, knew or should have known of the scale and seriousness of the human rights violations being committed, and who had the capacity to prevent them, and yet did not do so.
Part 5: Conclusions: because of commanders’ failure to stop the violence, human rights violations continued unabated for weeks
Based on over a year of in-depth research, Amnesty International concludes that Carabineros officers widely violated the human rights of the protesters in Chile, at least during the first month and a half of protests in 2019.
During their operations they inflicted severe pain and suffering on those protesting, with the intention of punishing them, disperse the protests and dismantling the demonstrations. In order to restore public order, commanders and officers considered damage to people’s integrity as a necessary harm.
Amnesty International considers that suffering endured by people such as Gustavo Gatica’s or Fabiola Campillai’s could have been avoided if the strategic and operational commanders included in this report had acted with due diligence within the framework of their responsibilities, taking all necessary measures to prevent human rights violations.
Officials of the Executive Branch, in this case President Piñera’s government, did not exercise adequate control over Carabineros, particularly given the magnitude of the reports of possible human rights violations, which were made public.
RECOMMENDATIONS: CHANGE IS NEEDED, CHANGE IS COMING
- There can be no change without justice: We call on the National Prosecutor's Office to continue with the investigations into human rights violations, paying special attention to the responsibility of the operational and strategic commanders, who, being in a position of guarantor, would have tacitly ordered or allowed the repeated commission of violations.
- Change and reform Carabineros: We recommend a structural reform of Carabineros, due to the limitations presented by its military nature and its organic structure, in line with the proposal made by the Chilean Senate Security Commission at the end of 2019. This report shows the need for greater control of the institution by civil authorities, as well as urgent changes that ensure unrestricted adherence to international human rights law.
- Constitutional change to protect human rights: We support the constitutional reform process agreed in November 2019. The current Chilean Constitution does not adequately protect human rights, especially social rights. Without structural changes to guarantee all rights and overcome inequality gaps in access to rights such as health, education, social security and housing, the human rights crisis in Chile will continue. The mechanism designated to implement the constituent process, must be inclusive and representative of historically marginalized, excluded and discriminated groups.
© Daniel Espinoza