Jun 07, 2013

Mapuche: Indigenous Voices Silenced By International Court

Two Mapuche plaintiffs have been denied their rights of natural justice in legal proceedings involving a case against Chile at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Below is an article published by the Santiago times

Mapuche leader Segundo Aniceto Norín Catrimán and activist Patricia Troncoso Robles were plaintiffs in a case against Chile at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights last week. However, neither of them were able to share their stories.

Norín and Troncoso, both represented by Chilean lawyer Ylenia Hartog, traveled to Costa Rica to present their case. They told press Wednesday that despite making the journey, their voices were “silenced by the court.”

“When I went there, there were seven Mapuche brothers but they only let three speak,” Norín said. “I was there to discuss what had happened over those many years which was part of the case, and I was not allowed.”

The case is centered on Chilean authorities’ use of the anti-terrorist law. The petitioners are asking the court to call on the Chilean government to stop applying the law to cases involving Mapuche land reclamation. Under the controversial law, police can hold suspects without bail ahead of their trial, the cases can be heard by military courts, anonymous testimony is submittable as primary evidence and charges against the accused can carry higher penalties than dictated under regular Chilean law.

Norín was sentenced for five years and a day under the anti-terrorist law for arson and making “terrorist threats” against the landowners whose property was set ablaze. Troncoso was also sentenced under the controversial law for arson charges. She was charged as a terrorist and given ten years and a day for the crime.

Human rights groups, including Amnesty International, have raised concerned about the regular and disproportionate application of the anti-terrorist law against the indigenous Mapuche in southern Chile.

“We went there to discuss, we were invited,” Troncoso said. “This organization had the responsibility of generating a summary of the process of reclaiming our lands, and our fight against the state and of the state against us.”

An impassioned Troncoso explained the importance of the case at the international court for her and for the Mapuche people.

“We had the responsibility to to tell about the experiences we’ve had,” Troncoso said. “What we wanted was to accomplish a profound analysis of the situation because it isn’t simple.”

The activist added that those present understood the ongoing oppression of the indigenous community, and “the cost that it means for each child, each man, each woman.”

The hearings in the case at the Inter-American Court of Human concluded last week, and the court is currently deliberating with a decision expected in the coming weeks.