WASHINGTON – Human Rights Watch urged the government of Chile on Tuesday to respect human rights while containing protests that have already left 15 people dead.
The Americas director at HRW, Jose Miguel Vivanco, said that the group was deeply concerned by the images of instances of police brutality coming out of the Andean nation.
“President Piñera should make clear to Chilean security forces that they need to respect human rights and ensure that officers implicated in abuses are promptly and impartially investigated,” he added.
Vivanco also encouraged Chilean prosecutors to “carry out prompt, thorough, and impartial investigations into serious crimes committed by demonstrators in recent days.”
Protests in Chile erupted over a hike in the fares of the metro in the country’s capital, Santiago, but quickly turned into a nationwide movement against social inequality.
Chilean President Sebastian Piñera declared a state of emergency, deployed soldiers on the streets and said the country was “at war against a powerful and relentless enemy who respects nothing and no one.”
So far, Chile’s National Human Rights Institute (INDH) has reported that 15 people have died (five at the hands of the security forces), 226 have been injured (123 through firearms) and nearly 1,700 detained.
In addition, the INDH denounced alleged incidents of torture and abuse by security force members during the past five days of protests.
Piñera apologized on Tuesday to Chileans for not seeing their needs and announced a social agenda to reform the pensions, healthcare and pharmaceutical systems, as well as minimum wages and electricity tariffs, among other measures.
He presented these measures on national television towards the end of the fifth day of massive protests by people demanding a more equitable country, and at a time when much of the South American nation has been in a state of emergency and under curfew with the army in charge of security.