International court to rule on indigenous rights abuses in Chile

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights will rule this week on cases of abuse by the Chilean government against Mapuche political prisoners.


The Inter-American Court of Human Rights, based in San José, Costa Rica, is expected to give its decisions Wednesday and Thursday on several cases concerning human rights abuses against Mapuche political prisoners in Chile. The various cases were first brought to the court by the affected families in August of 2011.


A Mapuche representative, left, presents a case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in 2008. A decesion on a more recent case, presented in 2011, is due later this week. Photo via OAS

The fundamental abuses cited in the claims are: the use of state repression, violence and imprisonment against Mapuche leaders, targeted at those involved in the campaign to regain Mapuche ancestral lands and rights. The claims also cite the historical mistreatment of the Mapuche people as having lasting traumatic social and cultural effects on all levels of the community.


A history of struggle


After fighting off Spanish conquistadors in the late 1500s, the Mapuche people managed to maintain their independence in the southern Araucanía Region and defend against the invasion of outsiders for centuries. It was not until the Chilean government engaged in the "pacification of the Araucanía" in the 1860s that the state finally took control of the Mapuche territory.


Although the Chilean government set up a system of reservations, known as “reducciones,” similar to those created in the United States, a large percentage of Mapuche suffered as a direct result of the looting of soldiers and the loss of land and livelihoods following the Chilean absorption of the Araucanía Region.


The reclamation of historical land rights has continued to be a major struggle for the Mapuche community. Individuals are often in the news for a range of crimes, primarily destruction of property, arson and

aggression against police. Many attacks are targeted at the forestry companies currently operating on formerly Mapuche lands.


Those caught or accused of participating in these crimes are often charged under the  “Anti-Terrorist Law”, first put in place by Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship. Under this law, the accused can be held

without bail before trial, receive higher penalties for crimes, be sentenced based on anonymous testimony. Cases can also be turned over to military courts. One of the more prominent Mapuche resistance groups,

the Coordinadora Arauco Malleco (CAM), is labeled a terrorist organization by the Chilean government.


Human rights groups, including Amnesty International, have been critical of the Chilean government's treatment of Mapuche prisoners, citing instances of torture and mistreatment. Mapuche political prisoners

frequently engage in long hunger strikes as a means of protest or to generate awareness.


The plaintiffs


Among the petitioners in the current Inter-American Court of Human Rights case are multiple Mapuche leaders from different Lof, Mapuche territorial groups. One of these leaders, Victor Ancalaf, is being

presented by the Center of Justice and International Law, and NGO based in Washington, D.C.


The claims brought by Pascual Pichun, Juan Millacheo, Jose Huenchunao and Jaime and Juan Patricio Marileo are represented by the International Federation of Human Rights, based in Paris. Mapuche leader Segundo Aniceto Norin and activist Patricia Troncoso Robles are represented by Chilean lawyer Ylenia Hartog.


Forensic experts are also contributing to the case, providing reports on the long-term traumatic consequences of state repression and the impact of the use of the “Anti-Terrorist Law” against the Mapuche community. Ruth Vargas Forman, a clinical psychologist, is among the experts

providing analysis on behalf of the Mapuche families.


source : Mapuche Foundation | FOLIL

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