Deciding body (English)
Type of body
Type of Court (material scope)
Type of jurisdiction
Type of Court (territorial scope)
Outcome of the decision
The head of Regional Studies of the Public Criminal Defense Office filed a constitutional action on behalf of an inmate against the National Director of the Gendarmerie, for the inhuman acts that the man suffered, as he was handcuffed while unconscious due to being ill from Covid-19. The Court considered that, despite the crisis generated by the pandemic, the National Gendarmerie cannot use such security measures against inmates.
Facts of the case
The head of Regional Studies of the Public Criminal Defense Office filed an “Amparo” action on behalf of an inmate and against the National Director of the Gendarmerie to protect the rights of freedom, security, and decent treatment. The inmate was a prisoner at the Acha prison complex, and was infected with Covid-19. He was then hospitalized at the Arica Regional Hospital where his health deteriorated. During the process his daughter could demonstrate that, while he was unconscious in the intensive care unit he was handcuffed, clearly suffering cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. Therefore, the claimant argued that a violation of the constitutional rights and international obligations had occurred, in particular the Nelson Mandela Rules and American Convention on Human Rights.
Type of measure challenged
Measures, actions, remedies claimed
Individual / collective enforcement
Nature of the parties
Type of procedure
Reasoning of the deciding body
The Court accepted the arguments presented by the claimant and determined that the security measure of handcuffing hospitalized inmates constituted a violation of rule 47 of the United Nations Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Mandela Rules). According to the evidence, the Court stated that the inmate was effectively handcuffed while he was unconscious and connected to a ventilator. The Regional Gendarmerie Director argued that the medical staff had reported a reduction in sedation levels that justified the stricter safety measure but the Court found that the measure was clearly not supported in the clinical reports, but was also a violation of constitutional rights (right to life and integrity) and international obligations (the prohibition of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment). The Court also considered that the action by the Regional Gendarmerie was a violation of Resolution No. 15.00.00.559/21 of the National Gendarmerie which, in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, was ordered to lift all coercive measures for people hospitalized in intensive care units.
Conclusions of the deciding body
The Court upheld the claim and ordered the National Gendarmerie to immediately lift the security measure of shackling hospitalized inmates in unconscious states and to avoid applying the measure in the future.
Fundamental Right(s) involved
- Prisoners’ rights
- Right to bodily integrity
- Right to health (inc. right to vaccination, right to access to reproductive health)
Fundamental Right(s) instruments (constitutional provisions, international conventions and treaties)
- Right to life and integrity, Art. 1, Chilean Constitution
- Prohibition of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, Art. 5.2, American Convention on Human Rights
- Prohibition of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, Rule 47, UN Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners
Rights and freedoms specifically identified as (possibly) conflicting with the right to health
General principle applied
Balancing techniques and principles (proportionality, reasonableness, others)
The Court did not use an explicit technique to balance fundamental rights. However, the Court tacitly applied the principle of the Rule of law, as it founded its decision on the obligation of regional authorities to apply strictly constitutional and international human rights obligations, as well as resolutions established by their superiors.
On the type of procedure: “Amparo” action to protect right to freedom and security art. 21, Chilean Constitution.