MAPUCHE POLITICS

What’s in the new Anti-Terrorism Law in Chile?

SANTIAGO – President Sebastián Piñera announced on March 23 a new Anti-Terrorism Law. The current one dates from 1984, when dictator Augusto Pinochet was in power, and is considered as abusive against Mapuche comuneros. It allows, for example, the prosecution to withhold evidence from the defense, effectively undermining due process and human rights. Although created by the dictatorship, the old law has been freely used by socialist administrations too, including those of Michelle Bachelet.

During his visit to La Araucanía region in March, President Piñera announced a modification of the current Anti-Terrorism Law. According to Universidad de Chile’s website Diario UChile, the modification contemplates a set of investigation techniques. The measure is a reaction to frequent incendiary attacks like those in the localities of Vilcún and Lautaro in mid-March, which destroyed two houses and two agricultural machines.

Piñera explained that the modification will consider all international obligations. “The project we are presenting respects due process and the international regulations to guarantee human rights,” said Piñera.

Here’s what’s included:

  • The use of undercover agents, communication interception, and other measures the state considers useful fighting terrorism.
  • A new definition of terrorism that enables the government to deal with the problem in a more objective way.
  • Cyber-terrorism will be punishable.
  • Terrorism can be committed by one person, and not only an organized group.
  • Any property related to terrorism which the government seized can be used as a resource to fight terrorism.
  • Stronger witness protection; extending in some cases to victims, judges and their families.
  • The acknowledgement of terrorism as crime against humanity and genocide, so crimes can be processed by a regional prosecutor, affected parties can request an investigation, as can the General Prosecutor.

The original Anti-Terrorism Law was promulgated in 1984 under dictator Augusto Pinochet. It has been criticized for its violation of human rights since it has been used mainly against Mapuche comuneros. Mapuche fight for jurisdictional autonomy and a right to their lands, frequently creating intense confrontations with Chile’s militarized police, the Carabineros.

Arguments against the law.

Amnesty International argues that the law criminalizes the Mapuche. Amnesty specifically referred to the case of the three accused in the  Luchsinger-Mackay case who endured an irregular process. The case is about a couple which was killed in an incendiary attack in 2013, presumably at the hands of Mapuche extremists. “The trial is marked by several irregularities. It shows the discrimination against leaders of indigenous people, which not only affects the accused, but also violates the victims and their families’ right to justice,” said Erika Guevara Rosas, America director of Amnesty International.

In a  report the NGO expressed concern about repeated denouncements of excessive force the Carabineros use against the Mapuche. The report described the case of Brandon Hernández, a Mapuche who was shot by a Carabinero with a riot shotgun. Hernández sustained more than one hundred pellet wounds in his back.
In addition, the NGO Center for Justice and International Law CEJIL (Spanish acronym), explained that Chile’s government must not keep laws that violate human rights and criminalize protests and social mobilizations.

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