Chile
Head of state and government
Sebastián Piñera Echenique
Death penalty
abolitionist for ordinary crimes
Population
17.3 million
Life expectancy
79.1 years
Under-5 mortality
8.5 per 1,000
Adult literacy
98.6 per cent

There were widespread protests during the year over education and environmental and other government policies. The number of criminal complaints for grave human rights violations committed during military rule (1973-1990) continued to rise but less than a third of those convicted were serving prison sentences. The inappropriate use of anti-terrorism legislation against Indigenous Peoples persisted.

Background

Tens of thousands of students, teachers, trade unionists and others took part in demonstrations, demanding fundamental changes to the public education system. Although largely peaceful, some demonstrations ended in confrontations with police.

In June, following widespread opposition and protests, an appeals court issued an order suspending the controversial HidroAysén hydroelectric dam project in Patagonia. However, in October, the court lifted the suspension order. The Supreme Court rejected two further appeals against the project.

The remains of former President Salvador Allende were exhumed in May as part of a new judicial investigation into his death. In July international forensic experts confirmed that his death during the 1973 military coup led by General Augusto Pinochet was not the result of third parties.

A proposed law on anti-discrimination and one recognizing same-sex civil partnerships were before Congress at the end of the year.

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Indigenous Peoples’ rights

In September, the government bowed to demands to suspend a nationwide consultation process with Indigenous Peoples and agreed to consider repealing Decree 124, which regulates consultation with Indigenous Peoples. The move followed widespread criticism that Decree 124 fails to comply with ILO Convention No. 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples which sets out the right of Indigenous Peoples to participate in decision-making processes that affect them.

There were continuing concerns about the inappropriate use of anti-terrorism legislation in cases involving Mapuche activists, including minors. In August, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights filed a case with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights concerning the selective application of the anti-terrorism law against Mapuche Indigenous people in a way that was unjustified and discriminatory.

  • Five Mapuche minors continued to face prosecution under the anti-terrorism law at the end of the year, despite amendments to the law in June excluding under-18s.
  • In June, the Supreme Court partially upheld an appeal in the case of four Mapuche activists convicted in March of common crimes by a civilian court in Cañete. The Cañete court had rejected the terrorism charges against them brought by the Public Ministry. However, the proceedings had been conducted under anti-terrorism legislation which permits the use of anonymous witnesses. The Supreme Court reduced their sentences but failed to order a new trial, allowing the convictions, based on the testimony of an anonymous witness, to stand. The four men staged an 87-day hunger strike in protest at the use of anti-terrorism legislation and at violations of due process. The strike ended with the formation of an independent Commission on the Rights of the Mapuche.
  • In February, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights granted precautionary measures for the Indigenous Peoples of Rapa Nui (Easter Island). The Commission called on the government to guarantee that actions taken by its officials during protests and evictions did not jeopardize the lives or physical integrity of Indigenous people. This followed violent clashes in December 2010. Criminal proceedings were initiated against some clan members and investigations into the actions of the police were continuing at the end of the year.
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Impunity

In August, the Valech II Commission issued a report confirming five additional cases of enforced disappearance, 25 political killings and 9,795 cases of torture. The commission had been established in 2010 to assess cases of enforced disappearance, political killings, political imprisonment and torture that had not been presented to the Rettig and Valech Commissions. By the end of the year, the total number of people officially recognized as disappeared or killed between 1973 and 1990 stood at 3,216 and survivors of political imprisonment and/or torture at 38,254.

The number of cases of human rights violations under investigation by the courts rose to its highest level yet following the submission in January by a court prosecutor of 726 new criminal complaints and more than 1,000 complaints filed over the years by relatives of those executed on political grounds.

According to the Interior Ministry Human Rights Programme, as of May there were 1,446 ongoing investigations. Between 2000 and the end of May 2011, 773 former members of the security forces had been charged or sentenced for human rights violations and 245 had had final sentences confirmed. However, only 66 were in prison, the rest having benefited from non-custodial sentences or sentences that were later reduced or commuted.

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Police and security forces

There were several reports of torture and other ill-treatment, including beatings and threats of sexual violence, against students arbitrarily detained by police during student demonstrations.

  • In August, 16-year-old Manuel Gutiérrez Reinoso died after being shot by a police officer during student demonstrations in the capital Santiago. Five police officers were subsequently dismissed and a police general resigned. In November, the military appeals court ordered the release on bail of the policeman accused of the shooting.

There were renewed reports of excessive use of force during police operations against Mapuche communities.

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Sexual and reproductive rights

Abortion remained a criminal offence in all circumstances. In September the Senate Health Commission agreed to debate proposals to decriminalize abortion in certain cases, but President Piñera said he would veto any bill that came before him.

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