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Switzerland must halt deportation of indigenous human rights defender, UN experts urge

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GENEVA (19 December 2019) - Switzerland would be responsible for violating the rights of a Mapuche indigenous representative if they proceed to deport her to Chile where she may be at risk of torture, the UN Committee Against Torture has decided.

The Committee found that the complainant’s deportation to Chile would put her at risk of being subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, as demonstrated by the treatment suffered by various members of her family.

Flor Agustina Calfunao Paillalef, the complainant, is a Chilean national and member of the Mapuche indigenous people from the Juan Paillalef Community in Araucanía. She has lived in Switzerland since 1996. In 2008, she received the prize “Femme exilée, femme engagée” for her continuous work to denounce the human rights violations suffered by the Juan Paillalef Community, particularly in relation to their efforts to defend their fundamental rights to traditional territory against non-indigenous landowners, as well as hydroelectric, forestry and mining concessions.

On 11 July 2018, after a 10 year process, Switzerland rejected Paillalef’s asylum application and ordered her deportation to Chile. On 17 August 2018, Paillalef submitted a complaint to the UN Committee against Torture, in which she alleged a violation of her rights under article 3 of the Convention by Switzerland.

The Committee considered that, as previously highlighted by other Committees, a pattern of systematic violations of the rights of the Mapuche people exists in Chile, particularly against those who defend their fundamental rights and try to maintain their traditional way of life.

The Committee recalled that ill-treatment inflicted by private individuals gives rise to State party responsibility whenever the competent authorities fail to exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate, prosecute and punish such acts, thereby providing their tacit consent or acquiescence.

In its decision, the Committee urged Switzerland to re-evaluate Paillalef’s asylum application.

The full decision is available to read online here.

ENDS

Background

The Committee against Torture monitors States parties’ adherence to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which to date has 169 States parties. The Committee is made up of 10 members who are independent human rights experts drawn from around the world, who serve in their personal capacity and not as representatives of States parties.

The article 22 of the Convention establishes the right of individuals to complain to the Committee against States which have violated their human rights. There is an international legal obligation on State parties to comply in good faith with the Committee’s Decisions. Further information on the individual complaints procedures before the Committees is available here.

Learn more with our videos on the Treaty Body system.

For media inquiries, please contact the UN Human Rights Office Media Section at +41 (0) 22 928 9855 / media@ohchr.org or Kiera Schuller at +41 (0) 22 917 9826 / kschuller@ohchr.org

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