Press Release

IACHR Expresses Concern for Violence Against Student Protests in Chile

August 6, 2011, 2011

Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and its Rapporteurs on the Rights of Children and Freedom of Expression express their concern regarding the serious acts of violence that took place during the student protests that occurred in Chile on Thursday, August 4th, which allegedly included the detention and disproportionate use of force against hundreds of protesters, among them high school and university students.

According to the information available, in order to break up a series of unauthorized protests, organized in response to educational policies, law enforcement used personnel on foot, on horseback, and in vehicles, who allegedly beat the protesters and used teargas and fire hoses. State spokespersons confirmed that during the dissolution of the protests hundreds of people were detained and almost a hundred police officers were injured. According to available information, a high number of high school students, including minors, and university studentes, were among those apprehended.

The Commission notes that the rights to association, assembly, and freedom of expression are fundamental rights broadly guaranteed by the American Convention on Human Rights. Given the importance of these rights for the consolidation of democratic societies, the Commission has maintained that any restriction of these rights should be justified by an imperative social interest. In this sense, the Commission observes that the States may impose reasonable limitations on protests with the objective of ensuring that they are peacefully carried out, as well as to disperse those protests that turn violent, so long as such limits are governed by the principles of legality, necessity and proportionality. As the actions of state agents must not discourage the rights to assembly, association and free expression, dispersion of a protest may only be justified under the duty to protect people. The security operations that are implemented in these contexts should contemplate those measures which are the safest and the least restrictive of the fundamental rights involved. The use of force in public demonstrations should be exceptional and strictly necessary in accordance with internationally recognized principles.

In all cases, the authorities should take the superior interests of children into special consideration when carrying out security operations and adopt all necessary measures to assure that children are protected against violence of any kind.

The Commission reiterates its concern regarding the grave events that occurred on August 4th, and urges the Chilean State to adopt the necessary measures to ensure full respect for the rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and association, imposing only those restrictions as may be strictly necessary and proportional, and taking into account the State’s special obligation to guarantee the rights of children.

The IACHR has requested information from the State on these events, based on Article 41 of the American Convention on Human Rights.

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 human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this matter. 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. 87/11