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Chile police committed serious rights violations during protests: HRW

A policeman shoots a flare toward demonstrators during a protest against the government in Santiago, Chile, on November 26, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

Human Rights Watch (HRW) says Chile’s police committed “serious human rights violations” during weeks of anti-government protests that claimed the lives of at least 25 people.

The rights group said in a report on Wednesday that the Chilean national police known as Carabineros resorted to excessive use of force in the streets and abused protesters in detention in the South American country.

Protests erupted in Chile over inequality and a shortfall in some social services last month. Soon after, clashes erupted between police and protesters, who marched in main cities.

Americas director at HRW, Jose Miguel Vivanco, said the group had received hundreds of reports of “brutal beatings and sexual abuse, that should be promptly and thoroughly investigated to ensure victims’ access to justice.”

“Issues such as the indiscriminate and improper use of riot guns and shotguns, abuse of detainees in custody, and poor internal accountability systems gave rise to serious violations of the rights of many Chileans,” he said.

The rights group also said it held a meeting with Chilean President Sebastian Pinera in Santiago on Tuesday, during which it recommended a series of reforms to help prevent police misconduct.

In response, the Chilean minister with responsibility for human rights, Lorena Recabarren, said that the government recognized “the value of the Human Rights Watch report and the recommendations that have been made to us.”

She said the findings “concern us and, of course, are ones we receive with pain.”

Meanwhile, President Pinera has asked lawmakers to allow the military back on the streets. He said troops were needed in the streets to protect transmission lines, electric plants, airports, hospitals, and other public infrastructure in order to assure “basic services.”

The move would “free up the police force… to protect the security of our citizens,” the president has argued.

​Protesters clash with riot police during a rally against the government in Santiago, Chile, on November 26, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

Police said some protests groups had engaged in violent acts, including looting, and burning public and private properties. They were also seen attacking police officers and police stations with rocks and Molotov cocktails.

More than 1,896 officers were injured between October 18 and November 20, about 127 of them seriously, according to police.

The National Human Rights Institute says more than 15,000 people have so far been detained, many of them being ill-treated.

It has filed more than 442 criminal complaints on behalf of victims with prosecutors, regarding injuries, cruel treatment, torture, rape, killings, and attempted killings allegedly committed by security forces.

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