Amnesty: Chile justice system permits police brutality

Amnesty: Chile justice system permits police brutality

Chile’s justice system allows for police brutality [press release] by requiring such cases to be heard in military courts, where similar personnel manage the judicial process, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] said in a report [text] Tuesday. According to the report:

Under the Chilean Code of Military Justice, common crimes committed by members of the military&#8212#8212;including the Carabineros de Chile (National Police)—in the exercise of their duties or in connection with them, must be investigated and tried by military courts. This means that crimes, including excessive use of force by police and other possible human rights violations, committed by members of the security forces while carrying out their duties are dealt with by the military courts rather than the ordinary courts.

AI argues that this is problematic because it removes the independence and impartiality that define basic courts. The report notes that international law requires that military courts only have jurisdiction to over cases “directly related to military discipline … and should not extend to common crimes, human rights violations or crimes under international law, among others.” AI detailed multiple cases to show the violations that go unchecked, even when death is the result. The organization listed recommendations as well, with the overarching conclusion being to require cases with civilian victims to be heard in ordinary courts.

In October Chilean President Michelle Bachelet [official profile, in Spanish] announced the government has begun the process of drafting a new constitution [JURIST report], with the new draft being presented to Congress in the second half of 2017. The current version of Chile’s Constitution [Princeton backgrounder] was drafted in 1980 and went into effect in 1981 after a vote that was criticized as fraudulent. Last April Bachelet signed a law recognizing civil unions between same-sex couples, a move hailed by advocates as a step toward full marriage rights [JURIST report].