March 25, 2020

It is with astonishment that we read in the press today a resolution by the Santiago Court of Appeals, in an extraordinary plenary session, to annul a resolution by Judge Daniel Urrutia. Said resolution aimed to changed the precautionary measure of preventive detention to total house arrest for 13 youth arrested for public disorder in the context of the social protests. An administrative inquiry is being carried out and the aforementioned judge is being suspended from his duties.

For the Corporation for the Defense of the Rights of the People, CODEPU, the resolution of the high court is of concern for the following reasons:

I.- Judge Daniel Urrutia’s resolution is based on international humanitarian law, which states that the right to health is a right for all those who live in the country, including inmates in preventive custody. And as such, it is possible to adopt a change from preventive to less burdensome measures, ensuring the purposes of the procedure and the health of the accused and society.

II – It is no mystery that Chilean prisons, given their overcrowding and the absence of conditions for applying basic sanitary measures, are places where the probability of contagion is very high.

III. – The health emergency and humanitarian reasons converge in a decision that is hindered by the extraordinary plenary session of the Court of Appeals that, in its majority, agreed to suspend the decision of the judge, to begin an administrative inquiry and to suspend judge Daniel Urrutia.

IV.- Such a decision by the Court of Appeals is contrary to the recommendations of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, who calls on the authorities to act now, in view of the spread of COVID19 and maintains that holding detainees in the current conditions carries a high risk and that preventive custody should be a measure of last resort.

V.- The political pressures deployed by the Ministry of the Interior, in order to pressure the Judicial Power to act in accordance with the repressive policies against citizen protests, were public and notorious in the days prior to the resolution by Judge Urrutia and the reaction of Santiago’s Court of Appeals. It is evident that the political pressure gave the desired results and that the independence of the Judicial Power is being undermined.

VI – We reiterate that the Judiciary has a constitutional and legal mandate to act to protect the rights of individuals, that preventive custody must always be exceptional and that people imprisoned for protest are imprisoned for politically motivated acts, which makes them political prisoners. The eventual death or infection of one of these political prisoners due to the infection of COVID 19 will imply an obvious responsibility of the Chilean State in general and the Judiciary in particular before the international community and will show, as it happened during the Dictatorship, that the State abdicated its role and acted as an instrument of the Political Power.

Therefore, we demand that the Judiciary

1.-Return to a path of independence from the executive branch and adopt an attitude of protection of the fundamental rights of the individual.

2.- Become aware of the health emergency and avoid preventive custody and undue rigor against prisoners of social protest.

3.- To cease the harassment against Judge Daniel Urrutia Labraux and to close the disciplinary file that was opened.

Santiago, March 25, 2020