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Chile police response to protests was repressive


A woman riot police officer lays injured on the floor after being attacked by demonstrators during a protest against the government in Santiago on December 12, 2019. – Furious Chileans have for weeks been protesting social and economic inequality, and against an entrenched political elite that comes from a small number of the wealthiest families in the country, among other issues. The crisis is the worst in three decades of Chilean democracy and has led to 26 deaths and more than 12,000 injuries, according to the Organization of American States, with another 20,600 people detained. (Photo by PABLO ROJAS / AFP)

Chilean police responded to recent mass protests in a “fundamentally repressive manner” resulting in serious abuses including unlawful killing and torture, UN investigators said on Friday.

They highlighted that official Chilean figures of more than 4,900 people injured in the protests were disputed and other sources had far higher numbers.

Their report decried the “unnecessary and disproportionate use of less-lethal weapons” such as anti-riot shotguns and tear gas, which had left roughly 350 people with severe eye injuries.


Chile’s worst crisis in decades erupted in mid-October over metro fare hikes but quickly escalated into the most severe outbreak of social unrest since the end of the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet nearly 30 years ago.

Furious Chileans have taken to the streets to register their anger over inequality and particularly to vent at the elites that control much of the country’s wealth.

The public prosecutor’s office said it was investigating 26 deaths in the context of the protests and the justice ministry has said more than 4,900 people were injured, including nearly 2,800 police officers.

The UN investigators, who visited Chile from October 30 to November 22, said other sources had reported far higher numbers of injured.

The investigators also reported that more than 28,000 people had been detained between October 18 and December 6, but that the great majority had been released.

Presenting the report, mission chief Imma Guerras-Delgado told reporters that more than 1,600 remained in detention, according to official Chilean numbers.

She said “the management of assemblies by the police has been carried out in a fundamentally repressive manner” leading to abuses including unlawful killings and torture.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet announced in October she would send a special mission to investigate allegations of rights abuses.


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