SANTIAGO – Some 2,670 criminal investigations have been opened against the security forces for alleged human rights violations committed during the protests that rocked Chile in the past month, leaving 23 people dead, the Attorney General’s Office said Tuesday.
“It is up to the prosecutor’s office to investigate these incidents with absolute objectivity to be able to later go before the courts to request the severest punishment for those responsible for these acts,” Attorney General Jorge Abott said in a press conference.
Among those whose human rights were violated are 422 children and teenagers, as well as 41 foreigners, the majority of them Colombian and Peruvian citizens, the AG’s office’s Special Human Rights Unit said in its latest report, which covers the situation in Chile from the start of the protests until Nov. 10.
The cases include 720 involving gunshot wounds and 1,679 alleging illegal arrests, while 44 criminal complaints were filed for torture, 90 by people who were stripped of their clothing and 26 for rape or sexual assault.
The majority of victims are men who allege they were attacked in the streets, but 241 complaints were filed over abuse at police stations, police compounds and military bases, and 45 complaints allege abuse in private homes, 44 in police patrol cars and 41 at businesses.
“The number of investigations indicates that the protocols were not followed correctly, as was established, and, as a result, there are responsibilities there that we must account for,” the attorney general said.
Abott said that nearly 17,500 people were charged with crimes committed during the protests, with the majority of the cases having to do with looting, arson and destruction of public property.
Some 2,808 people were hospitalized after being injured in the protests that started on Oct. 18, the biggest wave of demonstrations since the return of democracy in 1990, said the National Human Rights Institute (INDH), an independent public agency monitoring the crisis since it started.
The most serious cases involved 232 protesters who were shot in the face by Carabineros militarized police officers and suffered eye injuries.
The government said 23 people, including five allegedly killed while in the custody of the security forces, died in the protests, but the AG’s office reported that it was investigating 26 deaths.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International have denounced the brutality with which the security forces responded to the protests.
“The intention of the Chilean security forces is clear: to injure demonstrators in order to discourage protest, even to the extent of using torture and sexual violence against protesters. Instead of taking measures to curb the very grave human rights crisis, the authorities, under the command of President Sebastian Piñera, have pursued a policy of punishment for over a month,” Amnesty International Americas director Erika Guevara-Rosas said in a statement released on Nov. 21.
What started out as a call by students to sneak into the Santiago Metro to protest a fare hike, escalated into a level of civil unrest not seen in the past three decades.
No leaders have been identified in the protests, which have turned into a movement demanding a fairer economic model in Chile.
The marches, which drew huge numbers of people early on, have largely petered out as the days have passed, but there is still unrest and incidents of violence continue to occur in the streets.
Many protesters are skeptical about the mild social policy proposals made by the government and lawmakers’ plan to write a new constitution.