Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 January 2018, 13:56 GMT

Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2007 - Chile

Publisher International Federation for Human Rights
Author Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
Publication Date 19 June 2008
Cite as International Federation for Human Rights, Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2007 - Chile, 19 June 2008, available at: [accessed 17 January 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Political context

Ten years after the departure of General Pinochet, Chile today has a modern democratic system under the presidency of Ms. Michelle Bachelet, the country's first woman President. Deep scars remain, however: very few officials of the military regime have been tried for the crimes against humanity committed during the quarter of a century of dictatorship, and the anti-terrorist law adopted under the regime of General Pinochet is still in force, despite its non-compliance with international and regional human rights standards. In addition, by the end of 2007, Chile was one of the few Latin American countries not to have ratified the status of the International Criminal Court.

One of the major challenges facing the State of Chile today is that of the rights of the indigenous populations opposed to despoilment of their lands to the benefit of the State and the major corporations that exploit natural resources. The indigenous populations claim ownership of their ancestral lands and condemn the land boundaries imposed by privatisation, as well as the over-exploitation (especially of forests) and the industrialisation that threatens the way of life of their communities.

The indigenous communities are amongst the poorest and the most marginalised in the country. All the ethnic groups together represent a little less than 5% of the population of Chile, of which the largest community is the Mapuche people. Yet, despite the existence of Law n° 19.253, signed in 1993, which deals specifically with the rights of indigenous peoples (Ley indígena n° 19.253), the Constitution of Chile has not yet been modified to take this into account and Chile has still not ratified the International Labour Organisation (ILO) 1989 Convention n° 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples. In practice, lands that are claimed are under constant surveillance by security guards who are often guilty of abusing the indigenous communities, and a process of criminalisation of Mapuche land claims activities may be witnessed.

Finally, the year 2007 in Chile was marked by severe police repression of student demonstrations in May, June and October 2007 that called for changes in the educational system. These demonstrations led to violent clashes with the police and the arrest of hundreds of demonstrators for a short period.

The criminalisation of social protest: defenders of the rights of indigenous peoples as particular targets

In Chile, social and political protests and demands are often subject to repression and their instigators are the target of harassment, legal proceedings, arrests, arbitrary detentions and ill treatment in detention. In recent years, there has been a rise in social conflicts involving representatives of indigenous communities, essentially the Mapuche community, which hold public demonstrations during which communication routes are generally blocked or the lands which are claimed are occupied. This is the background to the continued imprisonment in 2007 of several Mapuche leaders who were sentenced in 2006 under the anti-terrorist law, including Ms. Patricia Troncoso Robles and Mr. Florencio Jaime Marileo Saravia,1 who went on hunger strike for 100 days from October 10, 2007 after the non-respect of commitments made by the Government in 2006 to reform the anti-terrorist law.

In addition, at the end of 2007, Ms. Juana Calfunao Paillalef, lonko (a traditional position of authority) in the "Juan Paillalef" Mapuche community (in Cunco commune, Temuco), was waiting for a decision from the Constitutional Court regarding incidents that had taken place in the Temuco Court in November 2006.2 She faced a 15-year prison sentence. Furthermore, between August 7 and October 9, 2007, Ms. Juana Calfunao Paillalef and her sister, Ms. Luisa Ana Calfunao, went on hunger strike to draw attention to the rights of the Mapuche people and to demand the ratification of ILO Convention n° 169 by Chile.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders is a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH).

1 See Observatory Annual Report 2006.

2 On November 15, 2006, the Temuco Court of Appeal had confirmed the guilt of Ms. Juana Calfunao Paillalef for "public disorder" after her run-in with the police in January 2006. When the verdict was announced, several indignant members of the "Juan Paillalef" Mapuche community had started to protest noisily. The police then physically attacked Ms. Juana Calfunao in the court, provoking a violent confrontation between the police and the Mapuche, some of whom physically attacked court representatives. Ms. Calfunao had then been placed in detention on charges of "threats against the authorities, unknown damage, slight injury and the theft of one of the enquiry files" [relating to the confrontation between Ms. Calfunao and the police in January 2006]. Ms. Juana Calfunao Paillalef had additionally been accused of "threats" against one of the Prosecutors. On November 20, 2006, the Oral Criminal Court in Temuco had sentenced Ms. Juana Calfunao to 150 days in detention for "public disorder" (See Observatory Annual Report 2006).

Search Refworld