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Report cites state violence against Mapuche in Chile

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ERCILLA, Chile - Chilean military and police have assaulted, harassed and killed Mapuche people in various Chilean communities, according to a recent human rights report that was submitted for political review in July.

The ''Report by the International Mission of Observation on the Institutional Violence Against the Mapuche People in Chile,'' which was co-sponsored by Amnesty International, alleges severe abuses against a group of Mapuche people in Chile by police and others. In late July, this document was delivered to Chilean President Michelle Bachelet who, in the last year, has convened national dialogues regarding the situations confronting the indigenous people of the nation. AI and the other groups are waiting for an official response to calls for investigation of the charges.

The 30-page document was co-sponsored by the Legal Studies Center of Argentina, the Center for Juridical and Social Studies of Bolivia, the Norwegian Popular Support agency and the Human Rights Observatory of Indigenous Peoples of Chile. The groups assert that the Mapuches are being

victimized by official forces and that this central issue is a continuation of previous policies.

''The Mission encountered multiple situations that, in our judgment, constitute grave violations of human rights, as well as racist conceptions on the part of state institutions clearly perceptible in verbal and physical mistreatment and abuse against the Mapuches.''

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This report follows a recent visit by these agencies and a similar mission lead by the U.N. Special Rapporteur in 2003, where observers came to investigate a series of incidents recorded in Temucuicui of the Araucania region. In the earlier visits, both the rapporteur and the U.N.'s Human Rights Committee urged the Chilean government to ''form an ad hoc commission that would investigate charges, clarify issues and formulate recommendations that would lead to the cessation of human rights violations, sanction the guilty parties and repair the damages caused by them.''

Observers returned to Ercilla and the Temucuicui community in January of 2007 - as these areas were the most affected by police actions.

Among the several examples in the report that support these concerns is the incident of July 24, 2006. ''1. Around 10 a.m., the Temucuicui community was again raided by soldiers and riflemen who entered the community with an excessive number of uniformed and civil police, where approximately 400 of these heavily armed police participated. 2. A consequence of this violent raid was severe damage to community housing and to structures on the periphery, children and women found in the houses were removed and abused, and later they were transferred to a police station where they were interrogated intensely by the district attorney and police. 3. In regards to this violent raid the community categorically rejects the actions of police who overstepped the bounds of legality by acting in a very violent manner towards our people, utilizing tear gas bombs, rubber and lead bullets that caused grave bodily injuries to older people, women and children ...''

Aucan Huilcaman, a leader of the All the Lands Council, witnessed this raid and was attacked by official agents as well. His testimony is featured in the report and includes the following: ''I was caught off guard when a police bus rushed up on me and intentionally hit me in the back, completely destroying the vehicle in which I was traveling ... As a result of the large police contingent gathered in that place, [Temucuicui] riflemen started to fire indiscriminately at women and children who were present. I am truly surprised by the lack of control of these riflemen against all of the persons mobilized towards the center of the community, including pursuing them and entering into the yards of the homes of Mapuche families, firing tear gas bombs and bullets at people gathered in their homes. What we have seen today is open police brutality, but what is most worrisome is that some district attorney participated in the coordination of these actions, and he didn't have the ability or the authority to stop the indiscriminate repression against people who were just in their homes and others who were simply passing by on the road where they staged this police action ...''

In the aftermath of these state attacks on indigenous communities in the last two years, the human rights team met with army and police officials in January of 2007, engaging in dialogues with the communities and the team ''... came to the conclusion that all the recommendations made by the U.N. went unheard by Chilean authorities.''

A copy of the full report is available on the Web site of the Observatorio de Derechos de los Pueblos Indigenas of Chile, at www.observatorio.cl.