Press Release

IACHR Expresses Concern over Repeated Attacks on Sites of Memory in Chile

February 6, 2020

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expressed its concern over the repeated attacks on sites of memory in different regions of Chile and called on the state to investigate these incidents and adopt measures to ensure these spaces are preserved.

According to publicly available information, between December 18, 2018, and January 19, 2020, nine episodes of damage to memorials in the cities of San Antonio, Osorno, La Serena, Concepción, and Coquimbo were recorded, as were incidents of trespassing and vandalism at sites of memory in Santiago. These monuments, which were erected to prevent the grave human rights violations that took place during the last dictatorship in Chile from being forgotten and to pay tribute to the victims, were vandalized with paint and graffitied with texts that referred to extreme right-wing groups or contained threats that more such attacks were to come. Likewise, the IACHR has been informed of at least another six attacks on sites of memory that took place over the course of 2019 in Santiago, Panguipuli, Antofagasta, Paine, and Pichoy in Los Ríos Region. According to publicly available information, the state is currently working on a protocol for handling new attacks on sites of memory. According to the information provided by the state, charges have been pressed in almost all the above cases.

The IACHR noted that sites of memory are a way to keep the memory of victims alive and raise awareness around serious human rights violations to prevent them from being repeated. In Resolution 3/2019—Principles on Public Policies on Memory in the Americas, the IACHR recommended that states develop a specific, appropriate regulatory framework for preserving these spaces. The IACHR also noted that states should guarantee that administrative mechanisms are in place that enable any person or institution with a legitimate interest in doing so to request that certain sites of memory be preserved.

Commissioner Joel Hernández, the rapporteur for Chile, said: “The repeated attacks on memorials to victims of the Chilean dictatorship have created a worrying atmosphere of intolerance that must be addressed by the authorities. We hope that the state will take appropriate action to ascertain whether the attacks are connected to one another and establish who is responsible for them,” he added.

“Damage to sites of memory is a form of aggression dignity and memory of the victims of the dictatorship,” said Commissioner Esmeralda de Troitiño, the president of the IACHR. “The state must work with civil society and victims to create mechanisms to protect these spaces and safeguard their physical integrity,” said Executive Secretary Paulo Abrão.

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. 025/20