SANTIAGO – One of the biggest government parties in Chile, conservative Independent Democratic Union (UDI), has proposed a reform of the National Institute for Human Rights (INDH). UDI wants to add three more authorities to the board of the INDH. The party called the human rights institute – an organization for the defense and promotion of human rights in Chile – “a left-wing instrument”.
“In Chile, human rights do not belong to one sector, they belong to all Chileans”, said UDI-parliamentarian Álvaro Carter in an interview with CNN Chile. Carter’s party has criticized the INDH, the organization defending these human rights, for years and has now proposed a reform.
With the reform, UDI representatives seek to add three board members to the 11 the institute already has. These three should be executives from the Carabineros (Chilean police), the PDI (investigative police) and Gendarmerie (prison guards). The INDH often criticizes these authorities for human rights abuses.
- Earlier this week, the INDH reported on excessive violence committed by prison guards
- The excessive violence Carabineros commit is often target of INDH investigations, for example in the Camilo Catrillanca case or during protests
- The PDI has been criticized for its way of investigating, like in the infamous Huracán case in which it altered electronic evidence to get Mapuche people detained
But according to UDI’s Carter, these institutions “are the main defenders of human rights”. Reforming the human rights institute should be a step to “move forward, as it should not be that things that have happened 40 years ago continue to divide the country”.
He ended by stating that human rights have become a business under the watch of the INDH.
What is the INDH?
The National Institute of Human Rights (INDH) is a relatively young organization. It began operations in 2010. Eleven academics, lawyers, human rights activists and other representatives from human rights organizations took a seat on the institute’s board, to, according to its website, promote and protect human rights of all persons living in Chile.
The website states that the INDH is not under the authority of the president, Congress or any court, and that it is autonomous and independent. Despite that, the INDH has often been criticized, mainly by right-wing political parties.
This has everything to do with Chile’s history: some Chilean right-wing politicians have a past in Pinochet’s military dictatorship and for example the UDI was founded by Pinochet’s main ideologue Jaime Guzmán and favored the continuity of Pinochet’s rule.
Indirectly, Pinochet’s legacy has made the INDH a plaything of and the Chilean right. Or, as UDI’s Javier Macaya told La Tercera: “the INDH has become an outdated organization, anchored in the past, where the representatives of civil society are the armed wing of the ultra-left”.
The proposed reform for the UDI has caused a wave of criticism in the country. The Communist Party (PC) said UDI should “take charge of its own history”, and that the proposal “is only looking to reduce investigations into human rights violations committed precisely by the same institutions they want to add to the board”.
The party ended by saying that the autonomy of the institute was in danger if these authorities would be part of the board.
Editor-In-Chief Boris van der Spek is the founder of Chile Today. He worked in Colombia, Surinam and the Netherlands as reporter and made appearances on BBC World Services and ABC News during major events in Chile.