Courtesy Alejandro Stuart
Hundreds of people attended rallies in the city of Temuco, Chile in early May where indigenous activists gave speeches against violence in Mapuche communities.

Inter-American Court Hears Mapuche Human Rights Case against Chile

Gale Courey Toensing
6/3/13

 

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has held hearings on several cases against the state of Chile concerning human rights abuses of land rights activists who were imprisoned under a controversial anti-terrorist law that dates back to the reign of former dictator, the  late August Pinochet.

The court held hearings on May 29 and 30 in San Jose, Costa Rica, on the various cases, which were consolidated under the title Narín Catrimán vs. Chile. Two years ago, the affected families petitioned the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, an autonomous part of the Organization of American States (“OAS”), whose mission is to promote and protect human rights in the American hemisphere. In August 12, 2011, the commission submitted the complaint to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights for review.

The indigenous families cite a number of state abuses including the use of state repression, violence and imprisonment against Mapuche leaders and the targeting of leaders and other activists involved in the long-running campaign to regain Mapuche ancestral lands and rights.

“This is a historic moment for the Mapuche nation and for all nations of the continent because it is setting a precedent for international opinion in a case in which a First Nation seeks justice and reparation for the violence inflicted by the State,” Victor Ancalaf, a Mapuche leader from the Choin Lafquenche community, said in a statement released by Eco Justice Abya Yala, a group that disseminates, promotes and monitors information about legal cases that affect the Native nations of South America.

The petitioners have asked the court to order the state of Chile to stop applying the anti-terrorist law to cases involving land recovery actions by Mapuche activists and for economic reparations for the families of Mapuche leaders who have been affected by incarceration under the anti-terrorist law.

The claims before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights also cite profound human and social damage caused by historical mistreatment of the Mapuche people with traumatic effects on all levels of the communities – the families, elders, adults, youth and children.

Several Mapuche families from different Lof – Mapuche communities or territorial units – are involved in the petition. In addition to Ancalaf, the named Mapuche leaders are the late Pascual Pichun from Lof Antonio Ñirripil, Temulemu; Segundo Aniceto Norin from Lof Lorenzo Norin in Didaico; Jaime Marileo and Juan Patricio Marileo from Lof Jose Guiñón; José Huenchunao from Lof José María Calbún; and Juan Millacheo from Lof Newen Mapu. Patricia Troncoso Robles, a pro-Mapuche activist, is also part of the group of petitioners. Troncoso Robles held a 112-day hunger strike while she was a political prisoner in 2008 to demand better prison conditions and call attention to the plight of the Mapuche.

Attorneys from the Center for Justice and International Law, a Washington, D.C,-based non-governmental organization that promotes human rights in the Americas and the International Federation of Human Rights, an international human rights organization with its headquarters in Paris, represent some of the Mapuche leaders. Others are represented by Chilean lawyer Ylenia Hartog. The attorneys supported the Mapuche cases during the hearings using reports prepared by forensic experts and oral and written testimonies from the petitioners. The forensic experts have documented the long-term traumatic consequences of state repression and the  detrimental impact of the application of the “Anti-Terrorist Law” by the Chilean state in recent years.

Chile’s controversial anti-terror law dates back to the 1973-1990 Pinochet era. The draconian law allows for suspects to be detained for indefinite periods of time without charge and allows the use of testimony from anonymous witnesses in trials, Forbes Online said.

In April Mapuche leader Felipe Durán Huilcamán, leader of Mapuche rights group Consejo de Todas las Tierras, listed the state’s abuses of the indigenous Mapuche in a letter he hoped to present to Chilean President Sebastián Piñera during a tour of the southern Araucanía region of the country, according to the Santiago Times. “Here [in the Araucanía Region] they committed the worst atrocities against the Mapuche people,” Huilcamán told the Santiago Times. “They attempted genocide, they pillaged our lands and stole our livelihoods — for this they should ask forgiveness.”

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