Saturday, August 23, 2014

Chilean military trial prompts objections

Amnesty International has released this statement criticizing the use of military courts to try police personnel who were involved in the shooting death of a civilian and an alleged cover-up. A junior officer was acquitted of covering up the offense, and the policeman whose shot killed the victim was given a sentence of three years and a day (with probation) for using excessive force. Amnesty faults the military courts for a lack of independence:
From the moment the role of the police was known, the case was subject to the military justice system, which in Chile is responsible for investigating and punishing crimes committed by police and members of the armed forces in military service or acting in connection therewith. In other words, under Chilean law, conduct that could constitute a violation of human rights, is investigated by military courts. This jeopardizes the right to a fair trial and due process, given the lack of independence and impartiality of such courts. This is because they are mainly made ​​up of lay judges and members of the military institution, and a lack of transparency.
"I never heard of military justice. I had no idea that there were two types of justice until it happened to us this," the victim's brother Gerson [Gutierrez] said. The investigation into Manuel [Gutierrez]'s death was carried out by the Second Military Court of Santiago. On May 6, 2014, after nearly three years, the court sentenced former sergeant Millacura Ricardo Miguel Carcamo, who was the shooter, to three years and a day for the offense of unnecessary violence resulting in the death of the youth, Manuel Gutierrez, and 60 days for the offense of unnecessary violence causing less serious injury to another young man who was wounded. The court replaced the custodial sentence with probation for three years and 61 days. Meanwhile a second lieutenant who was tried for concealing the crimes was acquitted. 
For Manuel's family and their lawyers the judgment of the military court shows a bias toward protecting the military. For them, a sentence of just over three years with the benefit of probation, and the acquittal of a person who concealed the facts is not commensurate with the extent of the crime and sends a weak message about how to respond to Chile human rights violations committed by the security forces. . . . 
While the court rejected the accused's claim of self-defense, it treated as mitigating the fact that he had cooperated in the investigation, which is false, and only sought to promote the main accused. In addition the court did not apply any of the aggravating factors provided by law, so the family is appealing. "How can the court have regarded it as a mitigating factor that the accused substantially clarified the facts when the sergeant initially denied to his superiors that he had used weapons during the night of the incident, cleaned the gun and recovered ammunition to keep his use of it from being discovered?,"said Cristian Cruz, Manuel's family's lawyer. 
Now the case of Manuel Gutierrez is being appealed.  The family has not felt that to date it has received adequate compensation for the crime. For them there has been a lack of effective support from the authorities, lack of psychological care, lack of financial aid and even less justice. The Chilean government has an obligation under international law, to repair the damage caused by its agents. "We do not want the same thing happening again. Manuel not want another. We know how it feels to lose a loved one, losing a son, a brother, a grandson, lost an uncle in the case of my nephew. It's the greatest pain that can be felt," said Gerson. [Rough Google translation.]

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