Shaken by Toddler's Rape Death, Chile Seeks to Alter Law on Sex Crimes
New Straits Times
May 4, 2018
|Chilean President Sebastian Pinera signed off on a draft law to drop the statute of limitations in cases of sexual abuse against minors on May 3, 2018. PHOTO: EPA-EFE|
With the country in an uproar over the brutal rape and death of a 20-month-old toddler, Chile's President Sebastian Pinera on Thursday backed plans to lift the statute of limitations on sex crimes against minors.
The move came just days after 20-month-old Ambar was taken to a hospital in the central Los Andes region by her aunt and legal guardian, who claimed she had fallen off a bed.
But medics who examined her quickly realised the toddler had been raped, with the paediatrician telling Chile's La Tercera daily he had "never" seen such levels of abuse in his 18 years of experience.
Despite undergoing immediate surgery, she did not survive, in a case of brutality which has badly shaken conservative Chile, sparking calls for a return of the death penalty.
The alleged perpetrator is believed to be the aunt's partner, who has been arrested on suspicion of "rape and murder."
As the toddler was being laid to rest at an anguished ceremony in central Chile, Pinera signed off on a draft law to drop the statute of limitations in cases of sexual abuse against minors.
The move went further than expected following reports he would set a 30-year time limit for bringing legal action after such crimes.
Under the current legislation, there is a five or 10-year statute of limitations on sexual abuses involving children, which varies according to the nature of the crime.
'Miracle' for Chile
"Our children who have been sexually abused have the right to a defence in order to obtain justice and prevent the passing of time... becoming a real accessory in favour of impunity," he said.
The draft law will be brought before Chile's lower house of Congress with "extreme urgency," Pinera said.
Among those present as he signed the document was Dr James Hamilton, who was abused by Chilean paedophile priest Fernando Karadima in the 1980s and 1990s.
Although Karadima was forced into retirement in 2011 after being found by the Holy See to have been a serial abuser of minors, the victims were unable to pursue a criminal case against him in Chile because the statute of limitations had expired.
"It's a miracle.. a gift for our country," Hamilton told reporters of the draft law, visibly moved.
"They won't regret it. This will bring social peace."
Hamilton recently travelled to the Vatican along with two other victims, Juan Carlos Cruz and Jose Andres Murillo for several days of talks with Pope Francis about the extent of abuse within the church in Chile.
Last year, there were 22,540 complaints about sexual abuse - an average of three per hour - with children and teenagers the main victims, figures from the state prosecutors office show.