OAS rights commission calls on Chile to stop 'excessive force'

©Agence France-Presse

Chilean demonstrators clash with security forces during a protest against the government in Santiago on November 29, 2019: the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has called on Chile to end the use of

Washington (AFP) - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on Friday condemned Chile's use of "excessive force" in confronting protesters, and called on the government to immediately halt all repressive measures.

The commission, part of the Organization of American States (OAS), said the social unrest in Chile had cost the lives of 26 people since mid-October, with some 12,600 injured and more than 20,600 detained.

The massive protests began with a demonstration against a price hike on metro tickets in Santiago, which sparked violent protests across the country in which demonstrators voiced a host of complaints against the conservative government of President Sebastian Pinera.  

"The IACHR condemns the use of excessive force in the context of the social protests in Chile, serious excesses in some demonstrations, and expresses serious concern over the high number of accusations of human rights violations by state agencies," it said in a statement.

"The IACHR calls on the authorities to order an immediate halt to the disproportionate use of force on the part of the state security forces."

Of the 26 deaths during the protests, at least five were attributable directly to state security forces and two occurred in custody, the report said.

The commission voiced "extreme concern" over the high number of people suffering eye injuries due to police crowd dispersion tactics, with more than 280 people allegedly suffering vision problems.

The IACHR also noted "serious excesses" by some groups of protesters who "lobbed heavy projectiles at security forces, destroyed public property such as schools, buses, trains and metro trains, sparking looting and other aggressions."

"The IACHR energetically condemns any act of violence, and notes that social protest is legitimate as long as it remains peaceful," it said. 

Pinera said Thursday that police may have broken protocols in responding to the protests, and said prosecutors will investigate whether they violated human rights.