THE ANTI-TERRORISM LAW: Controversially used against Mapuche activists

Originally enacted by the Pinochet dictatorship in 1984 to curtail any opposition, the anti-terrorism law has been re-implemented by the Chilean government to crack down on crimes relating to the Indigenous Mapuche groups. After Chile declared independence from Spain in 1818, the government forced the Mapuche to live on reserves and gave private lumber firms access to their land. Today, there is a growing movement among the Mapuche to regain ownership of their ancestral territory. Those responsible for the violent attacks resulting from the long-standing land claim disputes face harsh penalties under the anti-terrorism law. The controversial law allows for the extended detention of suspects without charge, greater sentences if convicted, phone taps, computer inspections and “faceless” witnesses as primary evidence.

The government’s use of the anti-terrorist legislation has been slammed by Mapuche tribes and human rights groups alike, who believe it is specifically used to target the Mapuche people. A number of Mapuche prisoners have gone on month-long hunger strikes to protest the charges levied against them. The United Nations Committee has criticized Chile for its inappropriate use of the law against the Mapuche, citing “a systematic use of excessive police force” against the minority in land claim disputes. In 2014, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights found that the Chilean government had violated the rights of eight Mapuche individuals who had been sentenced under the anti-terrorist law, and ordered them to revoke the sentences and award compensation. This case represents a small victory in the Mapuche’s ongoing plight to win back their land and have their culture and identity recognized.
Jun 1, 2015
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