Arrested members of the Mapuche Community must be released immediately

Open Letter
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Photo: Agencia Uno

Paris - The FIDH is seeking the immediate release of the four members of the Mapuche Community who were arrested on 8 June in Traiguen, Chile. There is no justification for their arbitrary arrest, which is evidence of a policy of repression and social control aimed at damaging the life of the Mapuche Community members and evidence, in particular, of the persecution of the Pichún family, whose members have been victims of stigmatization and false legal charges since 2000.

The Mapuche Community members Carlos Pichún Collonao, his 12-year old son, and three other members of the Temulemu Community, Eduardo Márquez Inal, Cristofer Pino Curin and Víctor Marileo Ancapi were intercepted by three police patrols and forced to get out of their vehicle. They were then handcuffed, taken away and charged with allegedly transporting high calibre weapons, among other charges. Carlos Pichún’s son was abandoned to his fate by the police forces and left alone in the middle of the road, unprotected and not treated as required by the international regulations on child protection.

At the present time, the four Mapuche Community members are on remand in custody for four months in Temuco prison. On 18 June, they were refused a change of precautionary measure from remand in custody to house arrest and the possibility of receiving visits from their relatives. Carlos Pichún is in a delicate state of health and his condition could worsen because of the hazardous conditions he is enduring in prison.

We must remember that, because they belong to the Mapuche people, they enjoy special protection according to international human rights standards, including Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization (ILO), in particular, Articles 9 and 10 thereof, which provide that, in the case of indigenous peoples, States shall give preference to methods of punishment other than confinement in prison, taking into account their cultural uses and their customs.

It is important to remember that the Inter-American Court of Human Rights found the State of Chile guilty of racial discrimination in sentencing the Lonko Pascual Pichún, by using the Anti-Terrorist Law as a disproportionate tool in their criminal persecution of him.

Furthermore, the FIDH calls on the Chilean State to cease all repressive actions and methods directed against Mapuche Communities and, in particular, those which are in the process of recovering land. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH) has warned States of the growing risks faced by the indigenous peoples in the region and, in particular, the territorial environmental conflicts associated to extractive activities. [1] It is necessary for national authorities to protect their citizens and, in particular, the groups who enjoy special protection such as indigenous peoples. Justice should guarantee respect for the right to due process of the four Mapuche Community members.

In their turn, in the context of the current pandemic, the prison police must implement preventive measures that avoid an outbreak of the virus and overcrowding in prisons, putting in place alternative measures that limit the deprivation of liberty, including remand in custody. In this regard, the four Mapuche Community members must be released immediately. The UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Nelson Mandel Rules) and the joint statement of the UNODC, WHO, UNAIDS and the OHCHR on Covid-19 in prisons or toher detention centres of 13 May 2020 [2] provide that people who are deprived of their liberty must be safeguarded and protected because they are in a situation of extreme vulnerability.

We must remember that, in the context of criminalisation of Mapuche social protest in the last 30 years, a large number of leaders and members of the Mapuche people are imprisoned and subjected to long periods of remand in custody and disproportionate sentences. This, added to the hazardous health conditions in prisons, represents a serious threat to their life and health in the context of the pandemic.

By reason of all the above, the FIDH asks the State of Chile to implement the following measures:

 An impartial investigation that takes account of the principles of presumption of innocence and due process and that strictly adheres to the principles of legality, necessity and proportionality of sentence.

 In the context of the pandemic, we require the Chilean State to take measures for the house arrest of the current Mapuche prisoners who are presently on remand in custody and on hunger strike. In the case of the Chilean prisoners, more than 1,500 prisoners have been released nationwide but no Mapuche prisoners and this is evidence of a racist attitude on the part of the Chilean authorities.

 To guarantee the protection of Carlos Pichún’s son, appealing for the life and rights of the Mapuche children and teenagers who have been victims of political violence to be respected and protected.

 To condemn breaches of the rights of Mapuche children, following the recommendations of the CIDH which has reminded the Chilean State of its obligation to give legal clarification of the acts of violence, punish those responsible and remedy the consequences of these acts. [3]

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