Head of state and government: Sebastián Piñera (replaced Michelle Bachelet in March)
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes
Population: 17.1 million
Life expectancy: 78.8 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f): 10/8 per 1,000
Adult literacy: 98.6 per cent
Indigenous Peoples continued to campaign for their rights to be respected. Some progress was made in bringing to justice those responsible for past human rights violations. Legal obstacles to the enjoyment of sexual and reproductive rights persisted.
A devastating earthquake and tsunami in February in southern Chile left up to 500 dead and caused widespread damage.
In August, the collapse of a copper-gold mine in the Atacama desert trapped 33 miners 700m below ground. After 69 days, an operation to save the miners was successfully concluded. The accident drew attention to issues around safety in the extractive industries. Eighty-three people died in a fire in the overcrowded San Miguel prison in December, drawing attention once again to the terrible conditions in many prisons in the country.
In January, Chile’s Memory Museum was opened to the public, providing a space to acknowledge human rights violations committed between 1973 and 1990. The process of setting up a National Human Rights Institute started in July, though concerns that its autonomy was not constitutionally recognized remained.
Police acknowledged “errors” in their response, using teargas and water cannon, to a peaceful student protest in Santiago in August.
The modification of existing legislation allowing civilians to be tried in military courts was discussed in Congress in October.
Indigenous Peoples’ rights
In July, 23 Mapuche prisoners began a hunger strike in protest at the use of anti-terrorist legislation against them and at alleged violations of due process, among other things. At its peak, 34 prisoners were participating in the hunger strike. Following negotiations between representatives of the prisoners and the government, mediated by Archbishop Ricardo Ezzati, the strike ended in October. An accord signed by all parties stipulated that all the cases brought under anti-terror legislation would be transferred to criminal law; that the government would pursue reforms to the Code of Military Justice; and that other measures to address Mapuche demands would be taken in line with international human rights standards.
From August onwards, Indigenous groups on Rapa Nui (Easter Island) protested against the continuing failure to return traditional land. In response, the government set up working groups to discuss their concerns in September, but many clan members objected to the terms of the discussion. In December, more than 20 people were injured in violent clashes between security agents and clan members occupying buildings and land.
A draft bill before Congress proposing constitutional recognition of Indigenous Peoples was given urgent status in September, but this was withdrawn in October. The bill had not been discussed by the end of the year.
A decree signed in January by the outgoing President established a commission to allow the cases of those who had been subjected to political imprisonment, torture or enforced disappearance between 1973 and 1990 – and who had not yet been identified by the Rettig or Valech Commissions – to be presented. Victims and their relatives were given six months to present their cases, after which the commission would review the cases and produce a list of names of those who qualified for the same benefits as those granted under the Rettig and Valech Commissions.
In July, two proposals for the granting of pardons to coincide with the country’s bicentenary were presented by the Catholic Church and representatives of evangelical churches. President Piñera ruled out the granting of pardons for crimes against humanity and stated that any pardons granted on humanitarian grounds would be decided on a case-by-case basis.
Victims’ groups continued to present cases for prosecution.
- In August, 438 cases were presented by a group of ex-conscripts, accusing the Army of human rights violations against army recruits between 1973 and 1990.
- In October, a group representing the families of those executed on political grounds announced they had presented a total of 300 cases to the judiciary.
- In April, the Supreme Court upheld the decision to ratify the application of the amnesty law in the case of Carmelo Soria, a Spanish diplomat killed in 1976 by security forces.
- In July, Manuel Contreras, former head of the National Intelligence Directorate (Dirección de Inteligencia Nacional, DINA), was sentenced to 17 years’ imprisonment for his involvement in the 1974 homicide of General Carlos Prats and his wife Sofía Cuthbert in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
In September, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights filed an application with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in the case of Karen Atala, a Chilean judge who was denied custody of her three daughters on the grounds of her sexual orientation. It also found that the Chilean legal system did not take into account the best interests of the children when granting custody to their father.
NGOs denounced a campaign to stop a film festival on sexual diversity in October. Leaflets distributed and letters sent to festival locations and supporters opposed the “promotion” of homosexual relationships in the festival.
Sexual and reproductive rights
Abortion remained criminalized in all circumstances. Two draft laws seeking to limit the scope of criminal provisions applicable in abortion cases were presented to Congress in December.
An NGO reported on the discrimination faced by HIV-positive women in accessing health services, and systematic violations of their right to medical confidentiality. It also identified a number of cases of coercive or forced sterilization.