The Chilean government must not use antiterrorist legislation to prosecute Machi Linconao and the Mapuche

Paris-Temuco-Geneva, August 22, 2017 - The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH-OMCT) and the FIDH and OMCT member organization in Chile, the Citizen Observatory, have expressed their concern over the oral trial proceedings for crimes of a terrorist nature that began yesterday against ten Mapuche community members and Machi (traditional Mapuche spiritual authority) Francisca Linconao, a recognized human rights defender for the Mapuche people and their territory.

“We are concerned that the Antiterrorist Law is being used once again against members of the Mapuche community, its leaders and defenders as a way of stigmatizing and intimidating the community and its claims to its ancestral territories,”

the organizations stated.

In addition to the use of antiterrorist legislation against the defendants, the community and its lawyers have furthermore decried, since the arrest of Machi Linconao [1], a series of irregularities surrounding the trial. For this reason, the Observatory will conduct an International Judicial Observation Mission in order to be present at the trial, document it, and denounce any violations of due process and of the legal safeguards protecting the defendants.

The Observatory hopes that the judges of the Temuco Oral Criminal Court who are conducting the trial will, during their deliberations, duly take into account the Inter-American Court of Human Rights decision condemning the Chilean State on May 29, 2014 for having violated the fundamental rights guaranteed by the American Convention on Human Rights of eight members of the Mapuche community, because it used the Antiterrorist Law against them. In its sentencing, the Court concluded that by applying this law to members of the Mapuche community, the State of Chile had violated, among other rights, legality, presumption of innocence, legal safeguards and personal freedom. [2]

The Observatory also urges the judges to consider the observations of the UN Human Rights Committee, as well as those of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination [3], which have called for the reform of the Chilean Antiterrorist Law such that it can not be invoked against the Mapuche and for the adoption of a clear and precise definition of terrorist crimes in order to ensure that law enforcement officials’ anti-terrorism endeavors do not target individuals on the basis of ethnic origin or any social or cultural motive.

In January of this year the Observatory had already appealed to the Chilean authorities to release Machi Linconao immediately, given the serious condition of her health due to the hunger strike she engaged to protest the Court of Appeals decision to keep her in prison despite the Temuco Court of Guarantee’s having agreed four times to her being put under house arrest. The Machi was finally granted house arrest.

In addition to the accusations leveled at the human rights defender, a further ten defendants are due to stand trial. These other defendants, all members of the Mapuche community, are José Arturo Córdova Tránsito, José Tralcal Coche, Juan Tralcal Quidel, Luis Sergio Tralcal Quidel, Aurelio Catrilaf Parra, Hernán Catrilaf Llaupe, Sabino Catrilaf Quidel, Sergio Catrilaf Marilef, Eliseo Catrilaf Romero and José Peralino Huinca. Most of them have spent close to 18 months in pretrial detention, despite defense lawyers’ repeated requests for provisional release. This clearly constitutes a violation of their right to presumption of innocence according to the international and domestic law in reference to procedural safeguards.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) is a program set up in 1997 by the FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) to intervene in order to prevent or to remedy specific situations of repression against human rights defenders. The FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders mechanism implemented by international civil society.

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