Press Release

IACHR Completes Preliminary Visit to Chile

November 29, 2019

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Washington, D.C. - After the State of Chile issued an invitation for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to conduct an on-site visit to the country, the Commission deployed its Executive Secretariat for a preliminary visit focused on gathering information and documents first-hand from a broad spectrum of authorities, civil society, and international organizations. These efforts focused on the situation of human rights in the context of the protests that have been ongoing in Chile since October 18, following price hikes affecting various public and private services in recent months.

IACHR Executive Secretary Paulo Abrão visited Santiago and Valparaíso with a technical team. During the visit, the delegation met with high authorities of the State and with individuals and organizations representing various groups in society and academia.

The Commission thanks the State of Chile for its invitation, openness, and support for this preparatory mission. The IACHR appreciates all the assistance it received to organize and conduct this visit, as well as the logistical arrangements made concerning transportation and security. The Commission also commends the authorities for their open mind and receptiveness to address the issues that were of interest to the IACHR.

The IACHR acknowledges the valuable cooperation of Chile’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who provided technical and logistical assistance as well as human resources during this visit. The Commission also appreciates the efforts of civil society organizations, human rights defenders, community leaders, and victims and their families, who contributed information and testimonies in the cities visited by the IACHR delegation.

During its four-day visit, the delegation met with authorities from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Women and Gender Equality, the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, the Human Rights Department, the Childhood Department at the Ministry of Social Development, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of the Treasury, the Valparaíso Mayor’s Office, the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the Public Criminal Defense Office, the National Institute of Human Rights, the Office of the Ombudsperson for Children, and the President of the Supreme Court of Justice. Similarly, over the course of its mission, the delegation met—both in Santiago and in Valparaíso—with representatives of civil society organizations, students, and journalists affected by recent violence, individuals who were deprived of liberty, groups of lawyers, and organizations who assisted the injured.

The delegation visited hospitals and interviewed more than 100 people, most of whom said their human rights—including their rights to life, physical integrity, and freedom of expression—had been violated in the context of the protests. According to data provided by the Public Prosecutor’s Office, five people had died by November 18 as a direct consequence of the actions of Chile’s national police (Carabineros) and military forces, while two further cases involving alleged suicides inside prisons were under investigation. The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights reported that, by November 13, 20,583 people had been arrested, and 950 of them remained in pretrial detention.

According to data provided by the Ministry of Health, the country’s medical emergency services assisted 11,564 people who had been injured in connection with demonstrations. By November 18, 2019, the country’s emergency services had assisted 194 cases of eye trauma, 77% of them caused by pellets and 9% caused by tear gas. According to the Chilean Doctors’ Association, the number of cases of eye trauma is as high as 283.

The IACHR was also told that certain groups of demonstrators caused serious violence during some protests. At a meeting with representatives of various religious institutions, the Commission was informed of attacks against Roman Catholic, Evangelical, and Jewish religious buildings. The IACHR strongly condemns all violence and stresses that social protest is legitimate as long as it is peaceful. The IACHR further reminds the State that the security forces have the obligation to allow demonstrations and protests to take place and to isolate any demonstrators who resort to violence.

The IACHR notes the public statement made on October 17, 2019 by Chilean President Sebastián Piñera, who said that human rights had been violated in the context of social protests and that the State’s security forces had in some cases used excessive force. The IACHR welcomes President Piñera’s commitment to making sure that those cases are adequately investigated—and, if necessary, tried and punished—and that victims receive support in their efforts to recover.

The IACHR delegation met with representatives of Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. The IACHR notes the comments made by the Human Rights Watch delegation, who said that there had been serious human rights violations in the context of social protests in Chile, and that the country’s Carabineros, in particular, had repeatedly violated human rights. Human Rights Watch said that these violations should be adequately investigated and punished by the courts. The Commission further notes that, on November 21, 2019, Amnesty International published its observations following a visit to Chile. Amnesty International said that the State’s security forces had committed widespread attacks against demonstrators, leaving five people dead and thousands who suffered torture, ill-treatment, or serious injuries, based on reports collected by that organization. Following its own on-site mission, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights noted that its delegation had reviewed allegations of an excessive use of force by law-enforcement and security personnel in protest contexts, as well as reports of ill-treatment—including sexual violence and other forms of abuse—and other rights violations against individuals who were deprived of liberty.
The Inter-American Commission thanks the State of Chile for accepting its request to conduct an in loco visit and announces that this visit has been scheduled for January 20–31, 2020.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 312/19