Human Rights Petition for Chile

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To the House of Representatives.

The Chilean community in Aotearoa New Zealand declares that we are extremely concerned about the numerous human rights violations committed by the government of President Piñera in Chile these grave abuses have been observed since 18th October 2019, by Amnesty International and the Instituto National de Derechos humanos.

The Chilean community in Aotearoa requests that the House issues a strong rebuke to the government of president Piñera and demand the investigation, prosecution and condemnation of crimes against humanity that have occurred and continue to occur at this time in Chile.

Chile faces its gravest human rights crisis since democracy was reinstated in 1990. In October 2019, students launched a protest against a price rise of underground rail tickets. This increase would have resulted in Santiago’s public transport costs reaching 18% of the income of minimum wage earners.  On Friday 18th, students occupied a number of underground stations and invited commuters through turnstiles, so they could travel for free. The protest was violently repressed by police forces using tear gas and batons against students and commuters, stations were torched and riots spread across the whole city. 

On Saturday 19th, the President of Chile declared a State of Emergency and a General of the Army was appointed as the head of National Defence. A curfew was declared in Santiago and other major urban centres – the first time such a measure has been undertaken since 1987, under Augusto Pinochet´s military dictatorship.

This decision incensed citizens who joined further protests throughout the country; many people came out on to the streets to protest the state of emergency and vent their frustration. For too long Chileans living in what is considered to be the most prosperous country in South America have suffered low wages, high debt, insufficient pensions, a chronically underfunded and inadequate public health system, and excessively high utility (i.e. water and energy bills) and transport costs. Further, evidence of corruption has been brought to light in many public institutions, including the Parliament, the Army, the Police, Justice, as well as the national Church and private companies. These entities have been found colluding to fix the price of commodities and everyday goods and services, including chicken, toilet paper and essential medicines. Most Chileans face precarious economic conditions. According to the latest edition of the Social Panorama of Latin America report prepared by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the richest 1% of the country possessed 26.5% of the wealth in 2017, while 50% of households with the lowest incomes accessed only 2.1% of the country's net wealth. Today Chileans feel that the social covenant of the post-Pinochet era is broken and are protesting to demand structural change.

The government, not willing to grasp the gravity of the situation, has responded with a few superficial measures but mostly with brute force. As of the evening of 25th October, the National Human Rights Institute has declared that 3,162 people have been detained of whom 343 are children, 997 people have been wounded (413 by firearms) and five people have been killed by the alleged actions of state agents. The State of Emergency has unleashed an incredible level of violence by agents of the state who have been repeatedly filmed assaulting peaceful protesters and using firearms indiscriminately, as well as perpetrating beatings and sexual assaults on detainees.

For the past eight days, Chilean democracy has been suspended, the rule of law has been undermined by state forces and the fundamental human rights of citizens are being violated, especially the right to individual freedom and personal security. Rights that are guaranteed in different international regulations such as the Covenants on Economic, Social, Cultural, Civil and Political Rights, which is the general framework for the protection of Human Rights, and the International Convention for the Protection against Enforced Disappearances of United Nations.

Chile needs the urgent support of the international community to condemn these crimes against humanity. Hence, we ask the members of the House of Representatives of Aotearoa New Zealand to help our country in its time of need. Please join us in expressing your concern about this crisis.

Given the human rights abuses of the past week and the continued repression on the streets of our country, it is more important than ever for the world to condemn the actions of the Chilean government; in particular of Sebastian Piñera (President), Andrés Chadwick (Minister of Internal Affairs) and General Javier Iturriaga (Head of National Defense) for their roles in these abuses.

Until the Chilean authorities can guarantee the fundamental rights of its citizens are respected, investigations into the detention, murder, disappearance and sexual violence takes place, and justice for the victims is ensured, we ask that Aotearoa New Zealand:

·        Condemn the unconstitutional and anti-democratic actions of the Chilean government;

·        Call on the Ambassador of Chile to New Zealand, Rodrigo Espinosa, to provide information on the situation and assurances that the abuses will be investigated and justice served.

·        Desist in sending a delegation to the APEC conference to be held in November in Chile;

·        Desist in sending a delegation to the United Nations Climate Change Conferences (COP 25) in December in Chile.