Chile: Mapuche Lonko (Chief) attacked and harassed


CHL 001/0705/OBS 056
28th of July 2005

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, in collaboration with the OMCT (the World Organisation Against Torture) and the FIDH (the International Federation of Human Rights), urgently requests your intervention following the situation outlined below:

Overview of the situation:

The Observatory has been reliably informed that Juana Calfunao Paillalef has been a victim of harassment. Señora Calfunao is the lonko (chief) of the Mapuche community Juan Paillalef which is situated in the Cunco district, region IX, Temuco, Chile.

The report states that the Mapuche lonko Juana Calfunao Paillalef, her husband Antonio Cadin and their seven-year-old daughter Relmutrai Cadin Calfunao have been victims of an arson attack on their home. The same house was already in the process of being reconstructed after a similar attack the previous year (see Previous Events further on).

According to the report, on the 22nd of July 2005 at around 6pm the family heard screaming in the direction of the river, about 150 metres from their home. The lonko Juana Calfunao Paillalef and her husband decided to go and find out where it was coming from and what was happening, leaving their daughter inside the house. When they arrived there was no one there. On returning to their home they found it engulfed in flames. Their small daughter managed to escape and save herself.

The report indicates that this is the latest of three arson attacks on their family home. Since 1998 when the Mapuche community started an, as yet unsuccessful, attempt to reclaim lost land, members of the community have consistently been attacked and harassed. So far, no-one has yet been brought to justice for these attacks.

The Observatory confirms that this latest attack has occurred since Juana Calfunao Paillalef went to Europe, between the end of June and the 4 th of July 2005. The purpose of her trip was to inform various organisations, governments and civil society about the political persecution to which her Mapuche community has been subjected. It is feared that these recent attacks have been in retaliation for this public denunciation in the international arena.

Background to the situation:

On the 26th of September 2004 Señora Juana Calfunao Paillalef and her family received death threats from a member of the National Corporation Of Indigenous Development (CONADI). At the same time the attorney general opened an investigation into the arson attack that had destroyed their previous house on the 26 th of June 2004, in which her uncle, Basilio Coñoenao, had died. Just days after this attack the family were shot at from outside their home (see the Observatory's Annual Report 2004).

Señora Calfunao and various members of her family have previously been victims of harassment, abuse and torture. In 2001, for example, the lonko , her husband and their son Waikilaf were detained by customs officers in the Temuco bus terminal, taken to a police station and tortured. This resulted in her miscarrying the child she was expecting.

The Observatory wants to express its concern for the state of vulnerability that defenders of the rights of the Mapuche community in Chile find themselves in. They are frequently victims of death threats, harassment and intimidation in the hope that they will be pressured into giving up the fight for the rights of their community. In this case the Observatory is particularly worried for the personal safety, both physical and psychological, of Señora Juana Calfunao Paillalef, and that of all members of her family.

Appeal for Action:

Please contact the Chilean authorities urging them to:

  1. take the necessary steps to ensure the personal safety of Juana Calfunao Paillalef, her husband Antonio Cadin and their daughter Relmutrai Cadin Calfunao, and all leaders and human rights defenders of the Mapuche community in Chile;

  2. to ensure an immediate, exhaustive, and impartial investigation into the arson attacks and other harassment to which the above mentioned people have been victim;

  3. to ensure the adherence to guidelines laid down in the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the UN General Assembly on the 9 th of December 1998. In particular, regarding the protection of the rights of all people " . individually or collectively, to protect and strive for human rights and fundamental freedoms on a national and international level " (Article 1), and regarding the duty of the state to guarantee " . the state protection of all people, individually or collectively, against all violence, threat, retaliation, discrimination, denial of facts or rights, pressure, or any other arbitrary action due to the legitimate exercise of the rights mentioned in the present Declaration ." (Article 12.2);

  4. to act within the boundaries laid down by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Pacts and International Conventions ratified by the Chilean State.


Please also write to the Chilean Embassy in your own country.

Geneva, 28 th of July 2005

Please inform us of any action taken regarding this situation, citing the reference code of this appeal.

The Observatory, in collaboration with the FIDH and the OMCT, is dedicated to the protection of human rights defenders and victims of violations by providing consistent, reliable support and assistance.

If you wish to contact the Observatory please use the Emergency Line:

Tel. and FAX: FIDH : + 33 1 43 55 20 11 / + 33 1 43 55 18 80
Tel. and FAX: OMCT: + 41 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29


Translated by Madeline Stanley
Mapuche International Link

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