On Friday, the Senate Commission on Constitution, Legislation, Justice, and Regulation began work on various proposed pieces of legislation targeted at reforming the Antiterrorism Law, which has been at the heart of the ongoing Mapuche political prisoner hunger strike. In addition to the senators who serve on the Commission, various other government officials were present, including the Minister of the Interior, Rodrigo Hinzpeter, and the Secretary General of the Presidency, Cristián Larroulet.
According to Senate press releases, the Commission is reviewing and debating four separate proposals that have been presented within the last several weeks:
- A motion presented by Senator Alejandro Navarro (MAS) on August 4, which seeks to eliminate the current law’s presumption of intent to produce fear in cases where explosives or fire are present, and ensure that the prosecution bears the full burden of proof in proceedings. Bol N° 7107-07;
- A motion presented by Senator Eugenio Tuma (PPD) on September 7, which offers a re-definition of terrorist act, that among other things, specifies that only acts perpetrated against people qualify. Bol. N° 7184-07;
- A motion presented by Senators Larraín Andrés Zaldívar (PDC), Soledad Alvear (PDC), Jorge Pizarro (PDC), Camilo Escalona (PS), and Jaime Quintana (PPD) on September 8, which picks up on a proposal submitted by former President Michelle Bachelet in 2006, and that excludes property from protection under the law. Bol. N° 7202-07;
- And the proposed legislation submitted by Sebastián Piñera, which is apparently unavailable online.
Although we were unable to find the modifications proposed by Piñera, his proposal apparently has four primary objectives: to more narrowly define terrorist acts; strengthen due process protections; ensure that penalties are fair and proportional; and strengthen the ability to investigate the acts covered.
After spending all Friday in session, the Senate Commission was unable to reach an agreement on how to proceed. Representatives from the Concertación expressed concern that Piñera’s proposal was too complex and failed to address the most immediate demands of the Mapuche political prisoners who are participating in the hunger strike. From the other side of the political spectrum, representatives indicated merely that more time was needed. Minister Hinzpeter was optimistic that an agreement would ultimately be reached.
The Commission will continue its work over the weekend in an extraordinary session, with the goal of being prepared to take the proposed legislation before the full Senate by Tuesday.
It appears that reforms to the Military Justice Code are being separately considered in the lower house of Congress. The proposal Piñera made in this regard is available for download here.