Amnesty International Report 2015/16 - The State of the World's Human Rights - Chile

Cases of police violence continued to be dealt with by military courts. Legal proceedings against those responsible for past human rights violations continued. Abortion remained criminalized in all circumstances.

Background

In October, President Bachelet announced the process that would be followed in order to adopt a new Constitution in 2017. The current Constitution was adopted during the military government of General Pinochet and, for many, is not consistent with a democratic system.

Allegations of political corruption, involving a number of public officials, were investigated throughout the year.

Security forces and the military justice system

Cases of human rights violations involving members of the security forces continued to be dealt with by military courts, despite public commitments by the authorities to reform the relevant legislation. The Supreme Court, however, upheld the right to due process and international human rights obligations in specific cases when deciding to transfer such cases to the jurisdiction of ordinary courts.1

In May, the Martial Court (the appeal court in the military justice system) reduced the sentence imposed on a former police officer for fatally shooting 16-year-old Manuel Gutiérrez Reinoso and injuring Carlos Burgos Toledo during a protest in 2011, from three years and 61 days to 461 days. The Martial Court disregarded the military tribunal’s finding that methods short of the use of firearms were available to disperse the demonstrators, instead stating that there was no proof of intention to cause injury on the part of the officer.2 This decision was confirmed by the Supreme Court in December.

Investigation into the death of Iván Vásquez Vásquez in police custody in 2014 in Chile Chico, Aysén region, made some progress. The family requested a third, more comprehensive, autopsy, given the discrepancies between two previous autopsies. In July the Martial Court agreed to conduct this autopsy, which was still pending at the end of the year.

A few cases of police violence were dealt with by the ordinary courts. Among them were the cases of Nelson Quichillao, a mineworker who was shot dead by the security forces during a protest in July in El Salvador, Atacama Region, and that of 28-year-old student Rodrigo Avilés who was seriously injured by police water cannon in May. Investigations into the cases were continuing at the end of the year.

In September, the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association called on the authorities to end the use of military courts to deal with cases of human rights violations.

Impunity

Efforts to bring to justice those responsible for past human rights violations continued. According to the President of the Supreme Court, by March there were 1,056 active cases, of which 112 related to allegations of torture. Official data from the Ministry of the Interior Human Rights Programme indicated that 72 of the 122 people who were convicted of human rights violations between 2014 and September 2015 were serving prison sentences.

However, victims’ organizations condemned the slow progress in establishing the truth about the thousands of victims of enforced disappearance.

Information and documentation gathered by the Valech Commission on politically motivated torture and imprisonment during the Pinochet era remained classified as confidential, even from the judiciary, and therefore secret for 50 years and unavailable to those seeking justice for the victims.

In October, after a 40-day hunger strike by some victims of torture, a law was passed granting early economic reparation to victims of torture and political imprisonment.

In July, 10 former military officers were charged with the kidnapping and killing of the singer and political activist Víctor Jara in 1973.

Following information received from a military officer, seven former military officers were charged in July for burning 19-year-old Rodrigo Rojas to death and severely injuring 18-year-old Carmen Gloria Quintana in 1986.

No progress was made in overturning the 1978 Amnesty Law.3

In September, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled that Chile had denied effective remedy to 12 people sentenced by a military tribunal between 1974 and1975. The case against them had not been quashed, despite evidence that their confessions were extracted under torture, and their allegations of torture had not been investigated.

Sexual and reproductive rights

Abortion remained a criminal offence in all circumstances.4 A bill to decriminalize abortion when the pregnancy poses a threat to the life of the woman or is the result of rape or incest or in cases of serious foetal malformation was pending before Congress at the end of the year.

In July, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) urged Chile to expedite the adoption of a bill to decriminalize abortion in some circumstances.

Indigenous Peoples’ rights

There were renewed allegations of excessive use of force and arbitrary detention during police operations against Mapuche communities.

In July, the CESCR urged Chile to guarantee constitutional recognition of the rights of Indigenous Peoples, ensuring their right to free, prior and informed consent with regard to decisions that may directly affect their rights.5

In October, the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights ordered precautionary measures for Mapuche Indigenous leader Juana Calfunao and members of her family living in the community of Juan Paillalef in southern Chile. The decision followed reports of excessive use of force by the security forces, threats and intimidation against the family in 2014 and 2015 linked to land disputes.

Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people

In October, legislation on civil partnerships, including for same-sex couples, came into force.

A bill on the right to gender identity that would allow people to change their name and gender on official documents remained pending before the Senate at the end of the year.

  1. Chile: Un avance: Otro caso de violaciones de derechos humanos se traspasa a la justicia ordinaria (AMR 22/1149/2015)
  2. Chile: El uso excesivo e innecesario de la fuerza policial debe investigarse y sancionarse en tribunales ordinarios (AMR 22/1738/2015)
  3. Chile: Amnesty law keeps Pinochet’s legacy alive (News story, 11 September)
  4. Chile’s failure to protect women and girls: The criminalization of abortion is a human rights violation (Amnesty International Chile, June 2015)
  5. Chile: Submission to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: 55th session (AMR 22/1479/2015)