U.N.'s Bachelet calls for probes into Chile protest deaths

FILE PHOTO: Chilean soldiers gather near demonstrators, one of whom holds a Chilean flag, during a protest against Chile's state economic model in Santiago, Chile, October 20, 2019. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido/File Photo

GENEVA (Reuters) - U.N. human rights boss Michelle Bachelet, a former president of Chile, called on Monday for independent investigations into deaths in weekend protests there, citing “disturbing allegations” of excessive use of force by security forces.

Bachelet made no explicit reference to her successor President Sebastian Pinera in her statement calling for immediate dialogue and a halt to “inflammatory rhetoric” which she warned could aggravate the situation.

Pinera said late on Sunday that his government was extending a state of emergency to cities in its north and south after at least seven people were killed amid violence clashes and arson attacks. “We are at war against a powerful enemy who is willing to use violence without any limits,” he said.

“The authorities must act in strict accordance with international human rights standards, and any application of the state of emergency must be exceptional and rooted in law,” Bachelet said.

At least eight people had died and possibly up to 13, with 44 injured, nine of them seriously, and 283 detained, Bachelet said, citing figures from the National Human Rights Institution. Dozens of members of the security force had also been reported as injured, she said.

The interior ministry had put the number of detainees in custody at 1,906, she added.

Protests led by students began two weeks ago over fare hikes on public transport.

Chilean authorities scrambled on Monday to clear wreckage and re-open public transportation in the capital Santiago after a weekend of chaos.

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay