As Chile grapples with a wave of protests that show no sign of abating, allegations of police brutality have grabbed headlines.
30 October 2019
Joshua Maureira has become the face of victims of human rights violations after he reported he was beaten unconscious by police officers, sexually assaulted with a baton, despite the death threats he was facing if he spoke out.
“I speak so that never again in Chile any person sees their human rights violated,” the 23-year-old medical student said during a statement at the prosecutor’s office.
He spoke to a crowd of hundreds of people who gathered on Monday in front of the building to show support for him and demand justice.
“It is a rather long and painful statement,” he added.
Maureira said he was standing outside a looted supermarket during a curfew and went into the shop after hearing cries for help at dawn on Oct. 21.
The police arrived soon after, confiscated his phone and beat him until he lost consciousness, he stated.
He said he woke up in a police car and that the beatings continued until they reached the police station in the Pedro Aguirre Cerda municipality – one of the stations that has been accused of the largest number of sexual crimes since the protests started, Beatriz Contreras, head of the National Institute of Human Rights (NHRI) for the Santiago region, told Efe.
At the police station, the violence allegedly took another level when officers noticed he was wearing red nail polish and assumed that he was homosexual.
He said that four officers, including at least one woman, were directly involved in the physical attacks whilst six others witnessed events without attempting to stop the assault.
There were photographs of his bruised body but a medical evaluation that was issued during his detention classified his injuries as minor.
After the initial attack, officers continued to beat him until they broke his nose and then raped him.
“Two of them took me by the waist and lowered my pants and underwear,” he said.The officers then sexually assaulted him with a baton, he continued.
When he went to court, Maureira learned police had accused him of stealing from the supermarket and attacking officers, so he spent several more days in jail.
Gonzalo Cid, leader of the Sexual Diversity Movement, told Efe: “Here the most serious thing is that they are agents of the state. It is the National Police of Chile that is doing that, and that generates a lot of fear. Who do you denounce if it is the police itself that tortures upon learning that one is homosexual?”
The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights expressed “greatest concern” over the alleged attack.
On Tuesday, Justice Minister Hernan Larrain admitted there have been situations involving security forces that “resembled violations of human rights,” he said after meeting with NHRI officials.
Sergio Micco, director of the NHRI, told Efe there may be more people who have suffered similar attacks and remained silent out of fear or shame.
The organization has been encouraging any victims who have not yet done so to come forward to seek advice from NHRI on how to issue their reports. So far 17 reports of sexual violence have been filed.
The protests in Chile have been marred by human rights violations and 20 people have died, including three Peruvians, two Colombians and an Ecuadorian national.
The deaths include five homicides allegedly committed by police officers.
All of the reports will be assessed by the United Nations mission for human rights which this week will evaluate the allegations that have been made since 18 October when the protests started.
People have taken to the streets to demand better salaries and pensions and fairer electricity and gas prices as well as improvements in education and healthcare.