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UN expert urges Chile to stop using anti-terrorism legislation and to adopt national strategy to address the Mapuche question

SANTIAGO, CHILE (30 July 2013) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, Ben Emmerson, today urged* Chilean authorities to refrain from applying anti-terrorism legislation in connection with the Mapuche indigenous peoples’ land protests. At the end of his first official visit to Chile, the expert also called on the Government to place the Mapuche question as one of the top priorities of the national political dialogue.

Mr. Emmerson stressed that there should be no impunity for the crimes committed during violent land protests, and that the victims of such violence should also have their rights adequately protected. However, he said, “the anti-terrorism legislation has been disproportionately and unfairly applied against Mapuche defendants, and has been implemented without a coherent policy for distinguishing those cases that meet the threshold test for an act of terrorism and those that do not.”

“The anti-terrorism law has been used in a manner that discriminates against the Mapuche,” the UN expert said. “It has been applied in a confused and arbitrary fashion that has resulted in real injustice, has undermined the right to a fair trial, and has been perceived as stigmatising and de-legitimising the Mapuche land claims and protests.”

The Special Rapporteur recommended that public prosecutors use ordinary criminal laws to investigate, prosecute and punish this kind of violence.

During his visit to the Biobío and Araucanía regions, the UN independent expert observed an “extremely volatile” situation, partly due to the misuse of the counter-terrorism legislation within the context of what he called “an inexcusably slow” process of ancestral land repatriation.”

“In the absence of prompt and effective action at a national level, this situation could very quickly escalate into widespread disorder and violence,” Mr. Emmerson warned.

The Special Rapporteur also urged the Chilean authorities to place the Mapuche question as one of the top priorities of the national political dialogue, to urgently promote the adoption of a National Strategy in this regard and to set up a National Consultative Commission to help devise and implement this strategy.

“The cornerstone for a national strategy should be the constitutional recognition of the Mapuche’s right to exist as indigenous peoples within the State of Chile, together with the creation by the incoming Government of an adequately staffed and funded ministry for indigenous affairs,” he said. “The resolution of this dispute needs to be a political priority for the next incoming Government.”

The Special Rapporteur received numerous reports alleging the use of excessive violence by the police against Mapuche communities, some of which had been upheld in judicial proceedings. These serious allegations included the infliction of gunshot injuries on the elderly, and on women and children. Despite the existence of apparently credible evidence and judicial findings, the expert was informed that no criminal prosecutions had been instituted.

In order to redress this de facto impunity, Mr. Emmerson has recommended the creation of a new independent investigation body with the function of inquiring into crimes of excessive violence committed against Mapuche communities by members of the Carabineros and the investigative police.

“Such a body should be institutionally independent of both forces, should have the power to investigate and to require the prosecution of criminal and disciplinary proceedings where the evidence justifies this,” he said. “It should also have power to inquire into the failure of the Office of the Military Prosecutor to secure accountability in the many cases of excessive violence in which it has so far failed to take any effective action.”

During his 14-day visit to Chile, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism held meetings with national authorities from a number of ministries relevant for his mandate, including foreign affairs, interior, justice and social development. He also met members of Congress and the Judiciary, the National Human Rights Institution, public prosecutors, public defenders and high-ranking officials of Carabineros and the investigative police.

In addition, Mr. Emmerson held meetings with victims of rural violence, representatives of the Mapuche community, local landowners and a cross-section of civil society representatives, including NGOs. He also visited Mapuche communities in rural areas as well as Mapuche detainees held in prisons in Temuco, Angol and Concepción.

Based on the information collected during his visit, the Special Rapporteur will prepare a report about counter terrorism and human rights in Chile, to be presented to the Human Rights Council in 2014.

Ben Emmerson (United Kingdom) is the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism. On 1 August 2011, he took up his functions on the mandate that was created in 2005 by the former UN Commission on Human Rights, renewed by the UN Human Rights Council for a three year period in December 2007, in September 2010 and again in March 2013. As Special Rapporteur he is independent from any Government and serves in his individual capacity. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Terrorism/Pages/SRTerrorismIndex.aspx

(*) Check the full end-of-visit statement: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=13598&LangID=E

UN Human Rights, country page – Chile: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/LACRegion/Pages/CLIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests please contact:
In Santiago de Chile (during the visit): María Jeannette Moya, Press Officer (+562 321 7750 / mmoya@acnudh.org) or Rébecca Steward (+56 2 23 21 7750 / rsteward@acnudh.org)
In Geneva (before the visit): Helle Iversen (+41 22 917 9421/ hiversen@ohchr.org), Claudia Gross (+41 22 917 9184 / cgross@ohchr.org) or write to srct@ohchr.org.

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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