In January Michelle Bachelet became the first woman president of Chile. She took office in March pledging to advance social equality and the promotion and protection of fundamental rights, to promote a National Programme of Human Rights and to take the legal and judicial steps necessary to secure truth and justice for past human rights violations.
In May, the Chilean Supreme Court released former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori on bail pending a decision on whether to extradite him to Peru where he was accused of corruption and human rights violations. By the end of the year, no decision had been reached and he remained in Chile under an arraignment order which prevented him from leaving the country.
In December, Augusto Pinochet, who governed Chile between 1973 and 1990 following a coup, died in Santiago. Under his government gross human rights violations considered crimes against humanity were committed. At the time of his death he was facing charges in Chilean courts in relation to a financial inquiry (the Riggs case) and four human rights cases - the Prats case, Villa Grimaldi, Operation Colombo and the Caravan of Death - in which thousands of people were subjected to torture, extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearance. He never attended any judicial hearings in any Chilean court.
There were reports of ill-treatment of members of the Mapuche Indigenous group. In May, a number of Mapuche detainees staged hunger strikes in protest at the unfair application of anti-terrorist laws.
• In July, uniformed police officers (carabineros) raided the Indigenous Mapuche community of Temucuicui in Ercilla, Malleco Province. The police claimed that they were searching for stolen animals, but the community denied that stolen animals were being held on community land. Police reportedly fired tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition at members of the community, who were unarmed. Several people were injured and a number of homes destroyed. Children were affected by the tear gas and several escaped to nearby hills. Women and children were ill-treated. The community had been subjected to similar police actions earlier in the year. At the end of the year, no investigation was known to have been initiated into the July raid.
• In December, police reportedly fired on Temucuicui Mapuche individuals who were collecting their salaries in the city of Ercilla, IX Region. Up to six civilians were believed to have been injured, including a number of children.
Secondary-school students demonstrated and went on strike in May, June and October to demand a complete overhaul of the education system and the end of disparities between public and private schools. There were clashes with the police and hundreds of people were briefly detained. There were reports of excessive use of force by police against student demonstrators and journalists.
There were reports of harsh conditions, overcrowding, lack of medical attention, ill-treatment and corruption by prison guards. The case of 80 detainees in Santiago Prison who were forced to sleep in the open was considered by the Santiago Appeals Court in June. A protection request was submitted on behalf of these men by lawyers working for the Paternitas Foundation, a non-governmental organization.
In September the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled that the application of the amnesty provisions of the 1978 Amnesty Law were not admissible and such provisions could not be applied to crimes against humanity. The judgment related to the case of Luis Alfredo Almonacid Arellano who was arrested and shot by police in September 1973. By the end of the year President Bachelet had made no decision on whether the Amnesty Law should be annulled, repealed or amended by new legislation which would limit its application.
AI country reports/visits
• Peru/Chile: 20,000 signatures collected as a result of the international campaign on the Fujimori case (AI Index: AMR 46/008/2006)
• Chile: Medical Concern (AI Index: AMR 22/002/2006)
• Chile: Death of Pinochet is not the end of the story (AI Index: AMR 22/004/2006)