Pardon to Detainees in Chilean Protests Faces Crucial Sessions in Senate

Pardon to Detainees in Chilean Protests Faces Crucial Sessions in Senate
Unsplash, 2019

Isabella Brozinga Zandonadi
America and Human Rights Researcher,
Global Human Rights Defence 

The project that seeks to pardon those detained in the protests that broke out in Chile in 2019, one of the most controversial issues in the country, faces important sessions in the Senate since January 18th 2022. The body's Constitution Commission discusses the initiative presented in December 2020 by a group of opposition senators to grant pardon "for humanitarian reasons" to protesters who were detained between October 7, 2019, and December 9, 2020.

The project, whose approval seems complicated, recognizes that the acts for which hundreds of people were arrested are punishable, although it must be recognized that it happened during the wave of protests that there was "a disproportionate state response followed by mass arrests and multiple criminal proceedings." The Christian Democrat Francisco Huenchumilla presented on January 18th 2022 an indication that was approved by the commission to change the legal concept of "pardon" to "amnesty" and thus unblock the debate.

The legislator explained that with this substitution the project will require only 22 votes to be approved in the coming days in the full Senate, unlike the 25 votes necessary for the "pardon" legislative procedure. If the Senate chamber rejects the project, a similar initiative cannot be presented for another year.

"It is a very bad sign to pardon people who have committed crimes as serious as throwing Molotov cocktails in the face of two police officers, burning churches, burning the subway, burning monuments and destroying everything that was part of the heritage of all Chileans," said the Chilean president, the conservative Sebastián Piñera

At the end of 2019, Chile experienced the most serious crisis since the end of the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990), with massive demonstrations that left dozens dead and thousands injured at the hands of state agents. In addition, episodes of fires and looting were recorded, and the security forces were questioned by multiple international organizations for human rights violations.

The drafting of a new Constitution emerged as the political way to calm the protests and the convention, the first joint in the world and made up largely of progressive independents, has until June of this year to draft the text that could replace the current one. , inherited from the dictatorship. So successively, these demands became major ones to claim a new constitution to replace the one in force at the time, approved in the time of dictator Augusto Pinochet.

The role of the Carabineros (Chilean police), was widely questioned both outside and inside Chile by human rights organizations. The National Institute of Human Rights (INDH) has recorded more than 2,500 complaints and some 3,000 victims of abuse between October 2019 and March 2020, including 34 people who lost their lives at the hands of the security forces and their containment protocols for the disturbance of public order.

Sources and further reading:
EFE. 2022. Indulto a detenidos en estallido chileno afronta sesiones cruciales en Senado. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 January 2022].

AméricaTevé. 2022. Piñera: indulto a los detenidos por el estallido social de 2019 "no le hará bien a Chile". [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 January 2022].