Press Release

IACHR Concludes Visit to Chile

December 11, 2014

Washington, D.C. – Commissioner Rose-Marie Belle Antoine, in her capacity as Rapporteur for Chile and Indigenous Peoples, undertook a visit to Chile between November 24 and 26, 2014.  The main objective of the visit was to collect information on the general situation of human rights in the country. As Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples, she also closely examined the human rights situation of indigenous peoples in Chile, in particular in the context of development and investment projects, and concessions for the extraction of natural resources. She visited the cities of Santiago and Temuco.

Commissioner Antoine met with various State authorities during her visit, including President Michelle Bachelet. During her visit, she also met with the following State authorities: Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs, Edgardo Riveros Marín; the Human Rights and Indigenous Peoples Commission of the Chamber of Deputies; the Minister of Justice, José Antonio Gómez; the President of the Supreme Court, Sergio Muñoz Gajardo; the Regional Prosecutor, Solange Huerta Reyes; the Undersecretary of the Interior, Mahmud Aleuy Peña y Lillo; the Undersecretary of Development, Juan Eduardo Faúndez Molina; representatives from the National Corporation of Indigenous Development (CONADI); and the National Service of Disability (SENADIS).  In Temuco, the delegation met with the Intendente Regional, Francisco Huenchumilla Jaramillo, and representatives from the CONADI and the Carabineros. The State also organized, in collaboration with the Commission, a seminar focused on international standards related to discrimination in light of the Inter-American System of Human Rights, which included significant participation from public officials and civil society organizations. The Commission also met during the visit with a significant number of organizations working towards the advancement of the rights of Indigenous Peoples, including the Mapuche, and representatives from civil society working in the areas of human rights, the rights of women, LGBTI issues, and the situation of trade unions.

During the visit, five working meetings related to individual cases were also held to follow up on the compliance of the State in relation to recommendations of the IACHR in a case and to facilitate a space for continued negotiations between the State and petitioners with the goal of reaching friendly settlement agreements in the others.  These meetings focused on the following cases: Case 12.799 Miguel Angel Villar Silva, P-1275-04 Juan Luis Rivera Matus and Others, P-946-12 Cesar Antonio Peralta Wetzel and Others, P-687-11 Gabriela Blas and Other, and Case 12.904 Aymara Indigenous Community of Chusmiza-Usmagama and its members. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights recognizes the efforts and willingness of the State to comply with its recommendations and to find alternative ways to resolve the various situations through the negotiation of friendly settlement agreements. In the same way, the IACHR values the disposition of the petitioners to explore measures of reparation under the friendly settlement mechanism. The Commission was also informed during this visit that the government is currently working on draft legislation to facilitate the use of the friendly settlement procedure by the State of Chile at the Inter American System of Human Rights level. The IACHR welcomes the initiative of the State, which if adopted would be considered a good practice in our hemisphere, and offers its technical support to continue advancing in this effort.

The Commission appreciates the efforts made by the State and the administration of President Michelle Bachelet toward developing an agenda with a comprehensive set of measures to advance the human rights situation in Chile. Among these, the Commission recognizes the government’s notion of a “new deal” with the indigenous peoples in Chile, and the commitment of the State to create a Ministry and a Council of Indigenous Peoples dedicated exclusively to the situation of indigenous peoples. Several State authorities also informed the Commission of the future reform of the current Counter-Terrorism Act to prevent its application to cases of social protests involving the Mapuche people and other groups, and the proposed reform to the military criminal justice system in the country; reforms the Commission hopes are undertaken in consonance with international legal standards. The Commission was also informed of other significant advances such as steps taken to create an Under-secretariat for Human Rights at the Ministry of Justice, a Ministry of Women, a Bill to legalize civil unions between persons of the same sex, and the adoption of Act no. 20.609 (2012) prohibiting discrimination on the basis of multiple factors, including sex, race, nationality, language, political opinion, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability. The Commission also considers the establishment of the National Human Rights Institute in 2009 to be a significant effort. The Commission also received information regarding reforms to the education system in Chile, with the goal of establishing a system that is free, of quality, and public.

However, the Commission highlights its concern over information received pertaining to the lack of constitutional recognition of indigenous peoples in Chile as well as significant barriers in the process of granting titles over ancestral territories.  Despite the State’s ratification of ILO Convention 169, information was received concerning noteworthy obstacles related to the content and implementation of the right to consultation in matters affecting the territories, livelihoods, and sustainability of the indigenous peoples in Chile. The Commission was informed of how indigenous peoples have not been consulted in a free, prior, and informed manner concerning the implementation of a number of development projects and extractive industries, and the impact of these initiatives on their access to water and natural resources such as seeds.  Even though there is an ongoing process of reform of the water code in Chile, the participation of indigenous peoples in that process has been limited.  These problems are aggravated by the low level of representation of indigenous peoples in public institutions and their situation of poverty and marginalization.

The Commission underscores how important it is that in the implementation of its new agenda the State consider the rights of indigenous peoples to their free determination, the principles of equality and non-discrimination, and their unique link with their land, territories and natural resources. The Commissioner heard indigenous peoples express deep concern with respect to the inadequate control they have over the education of their children so as to ensure the preservation of their cultural heritage, and urges the State to make provision for such cultural diversity and autonomy in its education reforms. The Commission also notes with concern information received during the visit about incidents of violence and intimidation perpetrated against indigenous peoples, a situation which the Commission hopes will be remedied by the new policies and legal reforms of the new administration.

In this sense, the Commission encourages the State to establish an institutionalized mechanism for consultations with indigenous peoples, which takes into account the different dimensions of this right under international law. Consultations should be held prior to the execution of any development, investment, exploration or extraction project which is carried out within the ancestral territories of indigenous peoples, in accordance with their customs and traditions, and in the design of legislation and public policies which affect them. The Commission also recalls that any comprehensive strategy from the State to address the rights of indigenous peoples should include their constitutional recognition, a  multicultural perspective in the design of legislation and public policies, measures to ensure that they are free from any form of discrimination, steps to accelerate the process of restitution to indigenous peoples of their ancestral lands, the prevention of any excessive use of force by law enforcement authorities to counter the expression of their social demands, and access to a culturally pertinent education. The Commission also urges the State to adopt immediate steps to comply with the recommendations pertaining to indigenous peoples adopted by the UN Human Rights Committee, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism.

The Commission also received information concerning a diverse array of human rights issues in Chile, such as the ongoing problem of violence against women and LGBTI persons, and forms of discrimination against persons living with disabilities and HIV. The Commission was also informed of the application of the military justice system to human rights violations in contravention of international standards; and the application of the institution of gradual prescription in the criminal process by which those sanctioned fulfill their sentences in freedom and concerns that in certain circumstances this may conflict with the need of accountability. The Commission also received information about the generality of the anti-discrimination law approved in 2012, the ongoing delay in the approval of the draft legislation to reform the current regime to administer property between spouses, and the debate pertaining to the legislation prohibiting abortion in all circumstances. The Commission underscores the continued importance of the government incorporating the principles of inclusion and participation in their design, reform, and implementation of current policies aimed at achieving equality and non-discrimination, and  addressing all forms of violence in the country with due diligence. Further, the Commission highlights the importance for the State of creating public spaces so that all persons affected by human rights violations and the organizations that represent them have a voice in the formulation of laws and public policies related to all civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights in Chile, including sexual and reproductive health issues.

The Commission would like to express its gratitude to the State of Chile for its excellent collaboration in the organization of this visit and for the valuable information it provided. The Commission would also like to express its appreciation for the information provided by representatives from civil society working in human rights in general and in the rights of the indigenous people, women, LGBTI issues, and the situation of trade unions; and to the people who traveled from different regions in Chile and met with the IACHR delegation to share their experiences and accounts. In particular, the IACHR would like to express its gratitude to the Observatorio Ciudadano for its support in the organization for this visit. The Commission is also grateful with the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA), for its support.

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 area. 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. 150/14