Press Release

IACHR Takes Case Involving Chile to Inter-American Court

April 29, 2011

Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) filed an application with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Case No. 12.576, Norín Catrimán et al. (Lonkos, Leaders of and Activists for the Mapuche Indigenous People), Ecuador.

The case involves the violation of human rights established in the American Convention, to the detriment of Segundo Aniceto Norín Catrimán, Pascual Huentequeo Pichún Paillalao, Florencio Jaime Marileo Saravia, José Huenchunao Mariñán, Juan Patricio Marileo Saravia, Juan Ciriaco Millacheo Lican, Patricia Roxana Troncoso Robles, and Víctor Manuel Ancalaf Llaupe—Lonkos, leaders of and activists for the Mapuche indigenous people—due to their prosecution and conviction for crimes classified as terrorist offenses. The State applied a criminal law that ran contrary to the principle of legality, with a series of irregularities that affected due process, and took into consideration the victims' ethnic origin in a way that was unjustified and discriminatory—all in a context in which Chile's antiterrorist law was applied selectively to the detriment of members of the Mapuche indigenous people.

Specifically, the victims were prosecuted and convicted based on legal provisions that suffer from various ambiguities that allowed the conduct with which they were charged to be classified as terrorist crimes, taking into account the victims' ethnic origin and their status as Lonkos, leaders of or activists for the Mapuche indigenous people. The Chilean judicial authorities that convicted the victims for terrorist crimes based their decision on a representation of a situation known as the “Mapuche conflict,” without making distinctions between the broader context of that indigenous people’s legitimate claims characterized by various forms of social protest, and the acts of violence committed by certain minority groups in that context. Accordingly, the invocation of the victims’ membership and/or link to the Mapuche indigenous people constituted an act of discrimination by which the social protests of members of the Mapuche indigenous people were, at least in part, criminalized. This affected the social structure and cultural integrity of the Mapuche people as a whole.

The case was sent to the Inter-American Court on August 7, 2011, because the Commission deemed that the State had not complied with the recommendations contained in its Report on the Merits of the case. The Commission submitted to the Court's jurisdiction the facts and human rights violations described in the Report on the Merits. The Commission also believes that this case will enable the Court to define standards in the area of equality and nondiscrimination, in circumstances that are novel to the inter-American system's case law, as is the situation of a legal framework being selectively applied to a group included in the nondiscrimination clause established in the American Convention. Moreover, the Court will be able to analyze, under the rights to equality and nondiscrimination, the various manifestations of that selective application, as well as the harmful effect that can result, in light of those rights, from considering a person's ethnic membership in a judicial decision, particularly when it comes to the exercise of the State's punitive power. In addition, the Court will be able to develop its case law in the area of reparations, particularly non-repetition measures which are necessary to confront the use of prejudice and stereotypes in a context of the discriminatory application of a legal framework to the detriment of a clearly defined group.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this matter. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 94/11