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UN rights chief urges ‘immediate dialogue’ to end Chile unrest

Protesters take to the streets of Santiago, Chile.
Diana Leal
Protesters take to the streets of Santiago, Chile.

UN rights chief urges ‘immediate dialogue’ to end Chile unrest

Human Rights

The top UN human rights official is calling for politicians and civil society in Chile to engage in “immediate dialogue” to resolve the deadly crisis which has gripped the nation in recent days.

At least eight people have died and more than 40 have been injured in protests against rising inequality. The demonstrations began last week following a proposal to increase public transportation fares, which was later scrapped.

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“There needs to be open and sincere dialogue by all actors concerned to help resolve this situation, including a profound examination of the wide range of socio-economic issues underlying the current crisis,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, said on Monday.

She added that: “It is essential that all actions, by the authorities and by protestors, that have led to injury or death, are subjected to independent, impartial and transparent investigations.”

Ms. Bachelet warned against the use of “inflammatory rhetoric” which she said will only further aggravate the situation.

The unrest prompted Chilean President Sebastian Pinera on Saturday to declare a state of emergency in the capital, Santiago, which has since been extended to other cities.

The UN rights chief said any application of the state of emergency “must be exceptional and rooted in law” and that the authorities must act in according with international human rights standards.

“There are disturbing allegations of excessive use of force by security and armed forces, and I am also alarmed by reports that some detainees have been denied access to lawyers, which is their right, and that others have been mistreated while in detention,” said Ms. Bachelet, who noted that members of the security forces are also reported among the injured.

The High Commissioner called on the Chilean Government to work with all sectors of society “to find solutions that can help calm the situation and address the grievances of the population”.

She called on those planning to take part in any protests to do so peacefully.

The UN Country team in Chile has also expressed concern following  violence in the capital this past weekend, where several deaths were reported in fires at looted supermarkets.  The  team lamented the high number of people injured in these incidents, as well as the damage and losses sustained.

Echoing the High Commissioner, the UN system in Chile recalled that states of emergency must be applied in strict compliance with the rule of law and international human rights standards.