"In Chile, many people have been irreparably injured"

Pilar Sanmartín, an Amnesty International researcher, calls on the authorities to "immediately stop" the crackdown on demonstrations.

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During the "Mourning March", in Santiago, on November 1, Chilean women dressed in black and wearing eye scars, representing protesters wounded by riot police shots. MARTIN BERNETTI / AFP

Amnesty International conducted a fact-finding mission to Chile from 28 October to 11 November. The researcher Pilar Sanmartín participated. It denounces serious violations of human rights by the police since the beginning of the social movement in mid-October.

What did you notice during your visit to Chile?

We have recorded several deaths presumably caused by the action of the State, by excessive use of force, acts of torture against persons arrested in the context of demonstrations … The testimonies of Sexual torture that we have collected are particularly shocking. There is also physical damage, including eye injuries and damage to the psychological integrity of many people. One of the things we talked about was a 15-year-old girl who lost an eye because the police fired indiscriminately at the crowd in the park where she was, during a small demonstration.

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Many of these practices of the police and the army, when the latter was deployed during the state of emergency (during the first ten days of the conflict) are generalized. There is a pattern of violent repression that has been repeated for several weeks and is repeated throughout Chile.

Have you seen any such facts in the area before?

The Amnesty International Crisis Team is deployed in contexts of serious human rights violations: extrajudicial executions, deaths caused by excessive use of force, enforced disappearances … And yes, unfortunately, we have have witnessed other cases of repression in America in recent years: Venezuela, Nicaragua, Honduras … It is a continent that is getting used to repressing the population.

"We never thought the situation would turn so extreme"

In Chile, it is not new that people go out into the streets to claim social rights and face authorities and police who repress them. But we never thought that the situation would take such an extreme turn. Today, the National Institute of Human Rights (NHRIs, an independent public body) lists 1,000 people injured by firearms, and has filed more than 200 complaints of torture, including cases of sexual violence. There were more than 6,000 people arrested in the crisis, which is a very high figure. And we believe that many of these arrests were arbitrary.