Current Situation of Political Prisoners During Pandemic
Since the social upheaval in Chile that began in October 2019, there are more than 2,500 people in pre-trial detention known as Prisoners and Political Prisoners of the Revolt. These people have not been convicted of any crime, but the Chilean state has decided to keep them in prison because it considers them “a danger to society”. The political prisoners include trans people, minors and Mapuche community members who were taken prisoner before and during the social upheaval.
These arbitrary and illegitimate detentions, which occurred during and after the peaceful demonstrations throughout Chilean territory, are part of the repressive response by the government of Sebastián Piñera, which in this way violates the rights of demonstration established in Article 19 – no. 13 of our political constitution. In addition to having massively and repeatedly violated the human rights of citizens, damaging and mutilating more than 400 people and taking the lives of more than 30 citizens.
Currently, the situation of the Political Prisoners is as follows:
- Coronavirus and prisons.
The rapid spread of COVID-19 infections has reached prisons, spreading among prisoners who are in overcrowded conditions that do not allow for proper personal care or physical distancing. Reports in male prisons such as Santiago 1 and especially Puente Alto and the women’s prison in San Miguel show the lack of application of Article 19 – no. 9 and the health protocols of the human rights manual of the Chilean Gendarmerie in Chapter 7 and the few tools to confront this global pandemic.
Among the various protests demanded the change of precautionary measure to house arrest that have been made in the prison Santiago 1, includes that prisoners have refused to consume the food of the prison. At the same time, they have demanded permission to bring in food from their relatives. This registration in the Metropolitan Region also extends to other regions, making visible the lack of proper application of health care by the authorities to protect the population, which includes persons deprived of their liberty.
- Government measures for parole.
Among the few measures that the government and parliament have proposed, a law was included to give the possibility of home confinement to elderly people (a group at risk of infection) who have not committed “serious” crimes. This led to the initiation of a process to release 17 prisoners accused of committing crimes against humanity during the Pinochet dictatorship. Denunciations of this injustice were made by various human rights organizations, including the Organization of Relatives and Friends of Political Prisoners 75 (OFAPP), Coordinadora 18 de Octubre, among others. These organizations succeeded in canceling the process and also demanded that the government treat the political prisoners fairly, noting that “there are people in prison for more than 100 days and they have not even had a first hearing. The investigative files are delivered with delays and there are even cases where these have been obtained. The delay in the process by the plaintiff’s lawyers only weakens the defense.
In this health crisis, the Coordinadora 18 de Octubre proposes house arrest for political prisoners, who should be granted absolute freedom once national health conditions improve. The OFAPP mentions in a communiqué that “the State of Chile, placing above all else the protection of human life, must immediately change the precautionary measure of Preventive Prison for Domiciliary Arrest for all Political Prisoners of the Revolt. The President of the Republic, in view of the state of emergency in which the country is entering, has the power to manage a bill that allows the change of precautionary measures. We demand that the powers of the state (executive, judicial and legislative) contribute in an effective and timely manner so that the Political Prisoners comply with the period of investigation of their judicial processes in their homes, which also contributes to the reduction of the levels of overcrowding in the penitentiary precincts”.
- Women from San Miguel prison.
In the framework of the first case of positive COVID19 in the San Miguel women’s prison reported on April 6, 2020, the lack of gender perspective in the application of health measures in the place was made visible. Here, the inmates have had to share toiletries due to the lack of supplies, adding the limited space that does not allow the corresponding quarantine. In addition, in situations that are not very humanitarian, the women in this prison have been required to separate from their children to avoid contagion, but without the possibility of families being able to quarantine in other spaces under house arrest.
- Social minorities and detention.
People who are part of the LGTBQ+ community have been severely discriminated against and mistreated during the arrests of the social uprising. These groups are invisible and many people who have been detained find themselves with their documents even without their names and gender having been officially changed. In this way, especially trans women, are harassed and attacked because of their double condition.
- Native peoples and prisons.
With regard to measures to protect human rights in the context of the current COVID pandemic19 , international institutions such as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous Peoples and the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues have requested that the measures adopted include criteria regarding the culture of indigenous peoples, who have been constantly made invisible by the Chilean system.
In this same context of health crisis, members of the Group of Families of Executed Politicians and the Observatory for the Closure of the School of the Americas have demanded that Mapuche prisoners be given the possibility of serving their sentences in their territories. This group is calling on the Executive to “apply ILO Convention 169, which requires governments to take action to protect the rights of the people and guarantee their integrity, specifically in Articles 9 and 10, which relate to the treatment of prisoners.
The daily violation of the rights of Mapuche prisoners has, unfortunately, a long history. The corresponding authorities have not heard the demands for a change in sentence and an appeal for their innocence, and have had to take extreme measures such as liquid hunger strikes by Ulises Neculpán, Antonio Lebu, Victor Llanquileo, Sergio Levinao, Sinecio Huelnchullán, Danilo Nahuelpi, Juan Calbucoy, Juan Queipul, Freddy Marileo and Anthu Llanca in Angol and an indefinite liquid hunger strike by machi Celestino Córdova Tránsito in Temuco.
A large part of the 2,500 people arrested and in prison since the social uprising are young, many of them minors and without criminal records. This includes cases such as Benjamin, who after leaving his high school on November 7 has been in prison on the unjust charge of the Pedreros subway fire. Also, Kevin and Mauricio are being held in irregular conditions for allegedly carrying bombs. Like them, there are many more cases throughout the country that are being held in the establishments of the National Service for Minors (SENAME). This institution has been constantly denounced for the serious systematic violation of the rights of the children who reside there, which presents an additional danger to those already mentioned.
In view of the alarming current health situation, we call on the relevant human rights organizations and institutions to demonstrate and publicly propose measures to safeguard the lives of political prisoners in order to avoid COVID infections19. The lack of correct application of the laws that constitute the current Political Constitution and the lack of willingness of the State of Chile to listen to the specialized entities, makes them responsible for putting at risk the lives of our families, friends. We express our deep concern for the lives of political prisoners in Chile’s jails.
SIGN THE OPEN LETTER TO FREE THE POLITICAL PRISONERS
This petition is now closed.
End date: Jul 28, 2020
Signatures collected: 332