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Document presented to the Sub-Commission by Mr. Reynaldo Mariqueo on the situation of the Mapuche people

Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights
57 th Session
Item 2 of the agenda.
25 th July - 12 th August 2005

Document presented by Incomindios (International Committee for the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas)

Phto: Reynaldo Mariqueo  at the UN


The human rights situation and fundamental freedoms of the Mapuche people.


Photo: Mr. Reynaldo Mariqueo

Mr Chairman
Distinguished members of the Sub-Commission,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

The violation of the fundamental freedoms and human rights of the Mapuche people both individually and collectively has given rise to long-standing concerns on the part of various non-governmental organizations. Indeed, over the last few years several of them have initiated fact finding missions in the Wallmapu (Mapuche Territory ) so as to investigate the persistent complaints made by Mapuche organizations and communities concerning the violation of their basic rights as guaranteed by the regulations of international law.

Amnesty International, The International Federation of Human Rights, Human Rights Watch and the World Organization Against Torture have all drawn up reports expressing their concern and/or have made recommendations to the Chilean authorities pertaining to the so-called "Mapuche conflict". For his part, Mr Stavenhagen, the Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Issues of the UN Human Rights Commission, has made specific recommendations after having observed first-hand the dramatic situation facing Mapuche communities and their leaders during his visit to Chile in July 2003.

In a letter addressed to the Chilean Government on the 19 th July this year, Mr Stavenhagen reiterated his concern at the "disproportionate indictments hanging over the traditional authorities (Chief Pascual Pichún and Chief Aniceto Norín) considering the acts with which they are charged under the current Penal Code. "He also warns that such gaps between the nature of incidents and the sentences sought to punish them could be interpreted as an "act of persecution of the Mapuche social movement in the country". Just like the use of anti-terrorist legislation in the context of the Mapuche conflict. The Mapuche authorities referred to by Mr Stavenhagen were acquitted for the second time by a Chilean tribunal on the 22nd July this year, but as happened previously, their imprisonment continues nonetheless.

The Chilean Government has ignored the concerns of the international community and far from seeking a just political solution and responding to the demands of Mapuche communities, it has responded with indiscriminate oppression and the application of repressive legislation introduced during the dictatorship of General Pinochet.

One of the most questionable legal matters is the Chilean Government's use of anti-terrorist laws against Mapuche leaders and authorities. Such laws may be applied in relation to crimes against the person, as described in the International Conventions on this matter, but in the case of Chile, these laws are being used to punish the Mapuche peoples' acts of protest including even their simple gatherings, thus denying them their fundamental right to freedom of association.

This situation implies that the violation of the human rights of the Mapuche people is dissimulated behind an appearance of legality, reflected in the clear abuse of power by the Chilean police, who do nothing but intimidate the Mapuche people both physically and psychologically, including children, women and the elderly. If I may, Mr Chairman, I would like to briefly illustrate this situation so as to expose the persecution and the legal 'set-ups' directed against Mapuche leaders. Here are some examples:

  1. José and Lorenzo Nahuelpi, of the Pantano community of Traiguen, were arrested on the 3 rd of February by a police contingent of around 80 officers on the orders of the public prosecutor Sergio Moya. The policemen did not explain to them the reasons for their arrest, nor did they produce an arrest warrant. The two men were taken to the police station in Traiguen where they were held in solitary confinement for approximately 24 hours. The police officers who detained them acted with extreme violence, threats and racist abuse. Lorenzo Nahuelpi was assaulted and threatened with a revolver to his head in front of his family, his parents and his three children. It was only the following day during the court hearing that they were informed that they had been arrested for the theft of a bicycle, a crime that had apparently taken place 6 months earlier and in which the accused had had no involvement. In spite of the lack of proof the tribunal charged them with the theft and remanded them in custody. The abuse of power by the police is clear and the disproportionate deployment of officers is an unequivocal act of intimidation directed at Mapuche communities.

  2. On the 26 th of March Chief José Regle Calhueque of the Cano Antinao community was attacked by three men with their faces hidden. His assailants injected him in the chest with an unidentified substance, causing the temporary paralysis of his entire body. His condition was so serious that he was urgently transferred to the hospital in the city of Temuco. In his position of authority, Mr Regle leads the campaign of his community to regain the land seized from them by the owners of large estates in the local area, where a paramilitary organization formed by the latter to intimidate the Mapuche leaders operates freely and with impunity.

  3. The Mapuche journalist Pedro Cayuqueo was arrested once again this year on the 2nd June, charged with not having complied with the payment of a cash fine in a lawsuit that has been dragging on for over 5 years, ever since he was found guilty in 2003 of having participated in an act of direct action in support of the recuperation of Mapuche land in the Traiguen region. His punishment at that time included 61 days of imprisonment. His detention on the 2nd of June 2005 took place while he was preparing to participate in a series of human rights conferences and meetings in Canada . Mr Cayuqueo is a highly regarded spokesperson and defender of the rights of the Mapuche people and as such is critical of the policies of the Chilean Government towards indigenous people. The circumstances of his arrest and imprisonment lead us to believe that the Government of Chile manipulates legal instruments and uses them as they please in order to silence the voices of the Mapuche people.

  4. Since 1998, the distinguished Mapuche authority Chief Juana Calfunao of the Juan Paillalef community, situated in the municipality of Cunco, has suffered continuous attacks by the Chilean police and by individuals with whom her community holds pending lawsuits over land-ownership. On the 22nd July, 2005 she was the victim of a new arson attack that reduced her modest home to rubble. This is the third such attack, which we believe to be part of a campaign of intimidation to make her abandon the battle for the rights of her community and her people. In June of 2004, Chief Basilio Coñoenao of the Juan Pichunlaf community burned to death in a similar attack on her home. Chief Calfunao has been arrested on numerous occasions under various charges and has also been threatened with firearms by unidentified individuals. On one occasion she was physically assaulted by police officers and as a consequence of police brutality she suffered the loss of her baby. The police officers involved in the incident subsequently instigated charges against her for assault. Chief Calfunao finds herself in a situation of complete and absolute legal defencelessness, however, in spite of her having initiated a number of legal actions against these criminals and the police from 1999; the Chilean justice system has neither investigated nor sanctioned those responsible.

Mr Chairman, in many cases Mapuche prisoners are tried under laws that are not appropriate to the crime in question and their legal rights are diminished by the use of these laws. They are tried by juries and judges whose impartiality and independence is questionable, as demonstrated by the annulment of trials where accused Mapuches were found not guilty, or by the barring of judges who ruled in their favour, a situation reflected in the letter sent to the Chilean president on the 10th June of this year by the Coordination of Mapuche Organizations and Territorial Identities. This shows us, Mr Chairman, that the action of the Chilean legal system greatly discredited among the Mapuche community and that the administration of justice under Chilean democracy is seriously under question.

The territorial conflict referred to by those human rights organizations in their reports, has been ongoing since the annexation of Wallmapu (Mapuche Territory) by the use of armed force by the Republics of Chile and Argentina since 1860 to 1885, when the Mapuches' armed resistance was crushed by the superior military power of these neighbouring countries. During 120 years of occupation of our land, the Republics of Chile and Argentina have systematically exorcised their policies of genocide and cultural assimilation. The plundering of our land and resources continues, condemning us to the worst poverty in all our history. The democratic system of government and the economic progress of Chile do not seem to have changed the economic and social situations of Mapuche communities. Finally, I should report that Chile does not recognise the right to self-determination of the Mapuche people nor does it recognise the existence of the Mapuche Nation in its constitution, and that it refuses to ratify Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples. 

In light of the aforementioned facts, we call upon the Sub-Commission to act in accordance with its mandate and to put pressure on the Chilean Government to end its repressive policies against the Mapuche people, to ratify international conventions and to put into effect the universally recognised regulations on human rights.

Many thanks, Mr Chairman.

Reynaldo Mariqueo
General Secretary
Mapuche International Link
Geneva , 27 th July 2005.

Translated by Anna Harvey

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