SANTIAGO – As Chile grapples with a wave of protests that show no sign of abating, allegations of police brutality have grabbed headlines.
Joshua Maureira was allegedly subjected to a sadistic attack by police and has become the face of victims of human rights violations.
The 23-year-old medical student reported he was beaten unconscious by officers, sexually assaulted with a baton and subjected to homophobic abuse and death threats.
He was imprisoned for allegedly assaulting police.
Maureira has spoken out about his alleged ordeal despite reportedly receiving threats from his attackers.
“It is so that never again in Chile any person sees their human rights violated,” he said during a statement at the prosecutor’s office.
He spoke to a crowd of hundreds of people who gathered on Monday in front of the building to show support for him and demand justice.
“It is a rather long and painful statement,” he added.
NIGHT OF HORROR
The attack allegedly took place at dawn on 21 October.
Maureira said he was standing outside a looted supermarket during a curfew and went into the shop after hearing cries for help.
The police arrived soon after, confiscated his phone and beat him until he lost consciousness, he stated.
He said he woke up in a police car and that the beatings continued until they reached the police station in the Pedro Aguirre Cerda municipality. It is one of the stations that has been accused of the largest number of sexual crimes since the protests started, Beatriz Contreras, head of the National Institute of Human Rights (NHRI) for the Santiago region, told Efe.
At the police station, the violence was allegedly stepped up when officers noticed he was wearing red nail polish and realized that he was gay.
Maureira said he was forced to repeatedly shout “I’m a fag” while officers hit him.
He said that four officers, including at least one woman, were directly involved in the physical attacks whilst six others witnessed events without attempting to stop the assault.
There were photographs of his bruised body but a medical evaluation that was issued during his detention classified his injuries as minor.
RAPED AND JAILED
Maureira said that the worst was still to come.
After the initial attack, officers continued to beat him until they broke his nose and then raped him.
“Two of them took me by the waist and lowered my pants and underwear,” he said.
The officers then sexually assaulted him with a baton, he continued.
When he went to court, Maureira learned police had accused him of stealing from the supermarket and attacking officers, so he spent several more days in jail.
Gonzalo Cid, leader of the Sexual Diversity Movement, told Efe: “Here the most serious thing is that they are agents of the state.
“It is the National Police of Chile that is doing that, and that generates a lot of fear.
“Who do you denounce if it is the police itself that tortures upon learning that one is homosexual?”
ALLEGATIONS OF UNPRECEDENTED BRUTALITY
Until now there was no precedent in Chile for institutionalized brutality towards homosexuals.
The only incident that came anywhere close was the murder of Daniel Zamudio who was killed by neo-Nazis 2012.
The crime paved the way for the Zamudio Law which banned discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, appearance or disability.
Maureira’s complaint has shocked the country.
The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights has expressed its “greatest concern” over the alleged attack.
Police have been removed from the investigation into Maureira’s report.
Sergio Micco, director of the NHRI, told Efe there may be more people who have suffered similar attacks and remained silent out of fear or shame.
The organization has been encouraging any victims who have not yet done so to come forward to seek advice from NHRI on how to issue their reports.
REPORTS OF SEXUAL VIOLENCE
So far 17 reports of sexual violence have been filed.
The protests in Chile have been marred by human rights violations and 20 people have died, including three Peruvians, two Colombians and an Ecuadorian national.
The deaths include five homicides allegedly committed by police officers.
All of the reports will be assessed by the United Nations mission for human rights which this week will evaluate the allegations that have been made since 18 October when the protests started.
People have taken to the streets to demand better salaries and pensions and fairer electricity and gas prices as well as improvements in education and healthcare.