Target: Chilean President Michelle Bachelet
Goal: Stop the arbitrary use of anti-terrorism legislation against Mapuche protestors involved in land conflicts
Since 2008, an indigenous group in Chile known as the Mapuche have been involved in protests regarding land disputes in the southern governmental regions of Araucania and Bio Bio. As a result, the Chilean government has inappropriately used anti-terrorism legislation to specifically target Mapuche protesters.
Historically, the Mapuche successfully fended off Spanish colonists and even settled on a treaty that dictated territorial boundaries more than 300 years ago. However, after the Chilean government declared independence from Spain, the Chileans ignored the treaty and forced the Mapuche into the region known as Araucania. Within the last decade, many companies have sought to build hydroelectric plants in Araucania, worsening an already volatile situation in the region. The construction of these plants would disrupt the lifestyle of many Mapuche communities, which still reflects the traditions and customs of their ancestors. Consequently, some protesters have even resorted to committing acts of arson in order to protest against these plants and to demand their rights to the land.
In response to these violent protests, the Chilean government has used the anti-terrorism legislation created under a previous military dictatorship to arrest Mapuche protesters and hold them without charges. Additionally, the legislation allows prosecutors to use questionable methods to gather evidence against suspects, which include tapping phones and using secret witnesses. In other words, many Mapuche protesters have been cheated out of their right to a fair trial and ultimately, their right to due process.
Ben Emmerson, a U.N. investigator who visited Chile in 2013 to assess the Mapuche conflict, argued that anti-terrorism legislation “has been applied in a confusing and arbitrary way, which has turned into a real injustice…and has been perceived as stigmatizing and delegitimizing of the Mapuche territorial demands and protests.” Instead, Emmerson recommended that Chilean prosecutors should use ordinary criminal law when dealing with suspects who commit crimes to support their demands to certain lands.
In response to hunger strikes started by Mapuche prisoners in April of this year, President Chilean Michelle Bachelet admitted that her previous use of the anti-terrorism legislation was a “mistake,” and vowed not to use it in her second term. Fortunately, awareness of the Mapuche conflict has gained more traction since 2008 and is evident in President Bachelet’s promise to review the anti-terrorism legislation. Sign the petition below to ensure that President Bachelet and lawmakers follow through with their promise of reforming the existing anti-terrorism legislation.
Dear President Bachelet,
As a result of the rising tensions between the Mapuche and the Chilean government, both sides have been guilty of resorting to violence in order to achieve their demands. However, the government has taken advantage of the anti-terrorism legislation and has used it to arrest Mapuche protestors without cause or substantial evidence.
The rights to a fair trial and due process remain fundamental human rights. For this reason, your administration should follow through on its promise to review anti-terrorism legislation. This legislation was crafted under Pinochet’s dictatorship and should not serve under a functional democracy.
Therefore, I am urging you to help quell the volatile situation in Araucania and Bio Bio between the Mapuche communities and government forces by using ordinary criminal law to investigate and punish suspects of violent acts.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Marcelo Urra via Flickr