The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism on July 29 urged Chilean authorities to refrain from applying anti-terrorism legislation that directly impacts the Mapuche indigenous people. Special Rapporteur Ben Emmerson made his first official visit to Chile, finding that "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." Referring to Chile's 1984 anti-terrorism law, Emmerson addressed the impact that the law has on indigenous land protests. His statement stressed the need for an end to impunity for the crimes committed during violent land protests, adding that the victims of such violence should also have their rights adequately protected.
In 2009, Chilean Subsecretary of the Interior Patricio Rosende announced that Chile would use the 1984 anti-terrorism law to prosecute indigenous Mapuches for attacks allegedly committed in the southern region of Araucania. The Chilean government declared that it would apply the measure to criminals regardless of their ethnicity, and that only a minority of Mapuches were responsible for the attacks in an attempt to disturb negotiations over Mapuche demands. The government has been widely criticized by human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch and the UN Human Rights Council, which maintain that the anti-terrorism law unfairly singles out Mapuches, who are Chile's largest minority, accounting for an estimated 4 to 6 percent of the country's population. The law dates from the Augusto Pinochet regime and abrogates due process rights for the accused—for instance, with a longer wait before arraignment and access to a lawyer once charged. The law also allows the imposition of sanctions up to three times what is established by the Chilean Criminal Code, and considers that acts perpetrated with the general intent of causing fear in the general population or imposing demands upon authorities have a terrorist intent.
From Jurist, July 31. Used with permission.
See our special report, Chile: The Mapuche Struggle in Pinochet's Shadow.