Chilean President Sebastián Piñera signed a bill into law on Thursday that will lift the statute of limitations on sex abuse cases involving minors.
Originally introduced in 2010, the bill was reintroduced at Piñera’s urging after a surge in reports that former Santiago Cardinals Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa and Ricardo Ezzati had covered up allegations of child sexual abuse within Chile’s Catholic Church.
The new law provides that, going forward, any crimes “regarding the kidnapping or abduction of a minor, as well as the torture, unlawful coercion or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and all that occurs during an act of rape, carnal access to a minor, statutory rape or other sexual offenses” will not be subject to a statute of limitations. Previously, these crimes had statutes of limitation ranging from five to ten years. The law does not apply to crimes committed by minors and allows for victims to pursue civil remedies as well as criminal charges. After consulting Chile’s Supreme Court, the legislature determined that the policy would not be applied retroactively, but would instead apply to future cases of sexual abuse involving minors.
In a statement, Piñera applauded the new law, emphasizing that “[n]ever again will the passage of time mean impunity for abusers or their accomplices or accessories.”