• Sheet of paper Report

Annual Report: Chile 2010

March 19, 2011

Head of state and government Michelle Bachelet
Death penalty abolitionist for ordinary crimes
Population 17 million
Life expectancy 78.5 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f) 10/8 per 1,000
Adult literacy 96.5 per cent

Further progress was made in bringing perpetrators of past human rights violations to justice. Indigenous Peoples continued to voice their land claims and demand respect for other rights amid rising tensions in the south. Obstacles to the enjoyment of sexual and reproductive rights continued to exist.


In November, the Senate approved a bill to create a National Human Rights Institution that would adhere to international standards and would be empowered to initiate legal proceedings in cases of certain human rights violations.

Chile’s human rights record was assessed under the UN Universal Periodic Review in May. Chile accepted all the recommendations made except those that would have brought the country’s abortion laws into line with international human rights standards.

Indigenous Peoples’ rights

The government announced plans to return 33,000 hectares of land to Indigenous communities in the southern IX Region. However, a decree passed in September (Decree 124) regarding procedures for consultation with and participation by Indigenous Peoples in decisions on matters directly affecting them fell far short of international standards. Efforts to incorporate recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ rights into the Constitution and to introduce new legislation on land and water resources that would have a considerable impact on them were carried out without due consultation.

Large-scale development projects continued to put the livelihoods of Indigenous Peoples at risk.

  • In May, construction began on the Pascua-Lama mining project in northern Chile on the border with Argentina, despite objections from local Indigenous Diaguita Huascoaltino communities that their consent had not been given. Mapuche Indigenous communities continued to campaign in support of their land claims and other rights. Some Mapuche groups and their supporters organized occupations and there were a number of violent clashes with the security forces. The Arauco- Malleco Co-ordinating Committee, whose aim is the creation of an autonomous Mapuche nation, claimed responsibility for a number of protest actions. In response, anti-terrorist and national security legislation dating from the military government of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990) was applied in several cases, in breach of previous government undertakings not to do so and contrary to the recommendations of international human rights bodies.
  • On 12 August, Jaime Facundo Mendoza Collío, a 24-year-old Mapuche, died after being shot by police. He was among approximately 80 people who had occupied a farm in the community of Ercilla, Araucania region, as part of their campaign for the return of land they claim. During the police operation to evict the protesters at least eight people were injured. Forensic reports stated that Jaime Facundo Mendoza Collío was shot from behind.
  • In October, the government denied allegations that several children were injured by pellets allegedly fired by security forces outside a community meeting in a school in Temucuicui on 16 October.

Sexual and reproductive rights

Abortion remained criminalized. Obstacles to accessing emergency contraception continued. In March the Comptroller General published a decision prohibiting municipal health clinics from distributing free emergency contraception, thereby disadvantaging women who could not afford to obtain it privately.


Chile ratified the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court in June and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance in December. In September, the government announced its intention to reopen both the National Commission on Political Imprisonment and Torture and the National Commission for Truth and Reconciliation (the Valech and Rettig Commissions) in order to allow previously unregistered cases of torture and enforced disappearance to be presented.

The Supreme Court announced that it would speed up the processing of cases of human rights violations committed during the military government of Augusto Pinochet, amid concerns that reforms to the Code of Criminal Procedure in 2010 might stall pending cases. According to official figures, between January and October, 69 former security force agents were charged, sentenced or tried in connection with human rights violations. However, by the end of October, final sentences had been handed down in only 179 out of a total of 3,186 cases.

In September, more than 165 former agents of the National Intelligence Directorate (Dirección de Inteligencia Nacional, DINA) were charged in connection with their involvement in the torture and enforced disappearance of political activists.

  • In September, the Supreme Court ruled that torture committed at the Chilean Airforce Training Unit between September 1973 and January 1975 constituted a crime against humanity. Only two people, retired colonels Edgar Cevallos Jones and Ramón Cáceres Jorquera, were sentenced in connection with these crimes.
  • The trial of former Prosecutor General Alfonso Podlech in connection with the enforced disappearance of four people in the 1970s began in Italy in November and was continuing at the end of the year.
  • In December, a judge ordered the arrest of six people after fresh investigations into the death in 1982 of former President Eduardo Frei Montalva revealed the cause of death was poisoning, rather than an infection as initially believed. The Supreme Court subsequently rejected legal challenges (amparo) by those charged. Lawyers for the Frei family argued that he was murdered because of his opposition to the government of Augusto Pinochet.