Chile to apply antiterrorism law to prosecute indigenous dissidents News
Chile to apply antiterrorism law to prosecute indigenous dissidents

[JURIST] Chilean Subsecretary of the Interior Patricio Rosende announced [press release, in Spanish] Tuesday that Chile will use a 1984 antiterrorism law [text, in Spanish] to prosecute indigenous Mapuches for attacks allegedly committed in the southern region of Araucania. The Chilean government has declared [La Nacion report, in Spanish] that it will apply the measure to criminals regardless of their ethnicity, and that only a minority of Mapuches are responsible for the recent 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 [reports], which maintain that the antiterrorism 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 Pinochet regime and abrogates due process rights for the accused, including 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.

Last month, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet [official website, in Spanish] proposed [AP report] the creation of an Indian Affairs Ministry. The proposal has been rejected by the Mapuche indigenous group, which continues to advocate for autonomy. Chile has ruled out such an option but has undertaken land redistribution [Santiago Times report] in Araucania to Mapuche members in response to their demands. Recently, Chile has also attempted to accommodate the demands [La Nacion report, in Spanish] of the Rapa Nui residents of Easter Island, another indigenous group, by undertaking a consultation process [JURIST report] on the subject of immigration and tourism to the island. The consultation comes as the Chilean Supreme Court [official website, in Spanish] ruled [press release, in Spanish] last week that a measure requiring all visitors to Easter Island to fill out Special Visitor's Cards with information about the length of and reason for their trip is unconstitutional.