Amnesty International welcomes indictment of Chile commanders over response to 2019 protests – JURIST

Amnesty International welcomed Thursday the indictment of three senior commanders of Carabineros de Chile for their purported involvement in the disproportionate and unlawful repressive response to mass protests in Chile in late 2019. Carabineros de Chile is Chile’s national police force, responsible for maintaining public order, enforcing laws, and ensuring the safety and security of the country’s citizens.

Amnesty International provided background information for an investigation into widespread violations of the right to physical integrity during the Chilean protests from October 18 to November 30, 2019. The report revealed that Carabineros commanders, including the current General Director and the then-Director of Order and Security, seemingly implemented a strategy to suppress protests. This involved the indiscriminate use of shotguns loaded with dangerous ammunition and resulted in thousands of injuries. Over 400 people sustained eye injuries.

The report highlighted issues of command responsibility and police violence during the period of social unrest. Commenting on the development Executive Director of Amnesty International Chile Rodrigo Bustos said:

The indictment of Ricardo Yáñez for his possible responsibility in the crime of omission over unlawful coercion resulting in serious injury and homicide, and other senior Carabineros commanders, is a vital measure to move forward in the fight against impunity for senior officials in Chile, which has been entrenched for decades, and in favor of justice for thousands of victims

At the behest of the North Central Metropolitan Prosecutor’s Office, the Seventh Court of Guarantee in Santiago has scheduled the formalization of charges against Carabineros General Director Ricardo Yáñez Reveco, his predecessor Mario Rozas Córdova and former Deputy Director Diego Olate Pinares for their roles in the social unrest. The prosecutors plan to charge them with omissive conduct related to coercion and homicide.

The North Central regional prosecutor Xavier Armandáriz filed a brief against Yáñez in January 2. This action follows five unsuccessful attempts by prosecutor Ximena Chong to obtain a statement from Yáñez.

Following the announcement of the charges, President Gabriel Boric reportedly made a phone call expressing “absolute support” to Yáñez, according to Yáñez’s lawyer Jorge Martínez. The call conveyed the president’s concern, emphasizing that decisions would be made after understanding the investigation’s details and the potential magnitude of the formal charges. Martínez sees the formalization as an opportunity to learn the accusations against Yáñez regarding his command responsibility during the protests. Regarding the possibility of Yáñez’s dismissal, the lawyer stated that it is a consideration.

However, Yáñez is set to retire on November 14. Minister of Justice Luis Cordero commented on the situation involving the request for his formal charges. Regarding Yáñez’s position, he stated that there is no legal impossibility for him to remain as the general director. Cordero explained that formalization is a communication means from the Public Prosecutor’s Office to someone under investigation.

When asked about Boric’s alleged call expressing support for Yáñez, Cordero stated he had no knowledge of it and deemed it inappropriate for a lawyer to comment on private conversations. He emphasized that Yáñez has a constitutional and legal obligation to perform his duties as long as he holds the position.

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