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Chile: Mapuche and the right to non-discrimination and equality

16 November 2016

Chile v Mapuche

MRG submitted an amicus brief in this case before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (the ‘Inter-American Court’), which focuses on the right to non-discrimination and equality before the law to concerning members of the Mapuche community who were persecuted under domestic anti-terrorism legislation in respect of attacks on certain land holdings and vehicles.  Anti-terrorism has only been invoked in the prosecution of members of the Mapuche community and its application means that the provisions of the right to fair trial available under general criminal law are not fully applied, e.g. under the anti-terrorist legislation, witnesses can be anonymous.  Members of the community had been accorded high prison sentences after being convicted under the controversial Anti-Terrorist Act.  The IACHR had already found against the state of Chile in all three cases, finding that there had been violations of, inter alia, the rights to equality and non-discrimination and the right to a fair trial.

MRG’s amicus submission sought to argue that given there was a prima facie case of discrimination on the basis of statistics, the burden shifted to the state to prove that the application was not discriminatory.  We also looked into specific standards regarding ethnic discrimination and the violations of such standards by and negative consequences of racial stereotyping. 

In May 2014, the Inter-American Court found Chile guilty of violating the human rights of members of the Mapuche people.  Even though the court did not consider that the law had been applied discriminatorily by the prosecuting authorities against the Mapuche, the judgment nevertheless found that the legislation itself was framed as to violate the right of presumed innocence, and that the domestic courts had relied on stereotypes and prejudices regarding the ‘Mapuche conflict’, rather than verifying that all the elements of the crime had been proved against the accused by the prosecuting authorities.

Key documents

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