On Friday, June 3rd, the Chilean Supreme Court announced that it was partially annulling the sentences of four Mapuche individuals who were originally convicted of attempted murder and armed robbery. The individuals – in protest of the alleged violation of their rights – had been on a hunger strike for more than 80 days at the time the decision was announced. In the hours that followed, responses to the Court’s decision came from many people and took many forms.
Immediately following the announcement of the verdict, a protest broke out in front of La Moneda (the Presidential palace). More than 50 protestors took to the streets. They were relatively quickly subdued by Chilean police officers who used fire hoses to break up the crowd. They also arrested 12 individuals for disorderly conduct in the process.
Not long after the Court announced its decision, Natividad Llanquileo, the spokesperson for the Mapuche hunger strikers, spoke to the media. “We are not going to accept this situation for any reason because so many violations occurred during the trial,” she began. “We will continue working so that the Antiterrorism Law will no longer be applied – it is an arbitrary law from the dictatorship that is specially applied to the Mapuche people.” She also indicated that the prisoners would seek relief at the international level and added, “Today, not only have the Mapuche political prisoners been condemned, but the entire Mapuche people,” and finally, she made it clear that the prisoners had every intention of continuing their hunger strike until justice is realized.
Two members of the Supreme Court issued statements on Saturday as well. Jaime Rodríguez, the Court’s spokesperson (and a judge), stated that, upon reviewing the record, he thought, “it was a fair trial.” Rodríguez was then asked by some international organizations about the use of the Antiterrorism Law in this case to which he responded, “Do you believe that international treaties are endorsing the shootings and attacks on the Country’s authorities and that the courts should support such behavior?” Meanwhile, Milton Juica, the President of the Supreme Court, told the media, “This [decision] is the last word [on the matter] and must be complied with.” He then added, “One would hope that the [Mapuche individuals] would stop their hunger strike as they have achieved something that they wanted – reductions in their convictions.”
President Piñera’s spokesperson, Ena Von Baer, echoed Jucia’s sentiments, “We hope that after the Court’s decision today, the Mapuche individuals will cease their hunger strike.” She later added that the Chilean Government had, “met 100% of the commitments it made during the round table discussions with the Mapuche who were on hunger strike,” and that now the Court’s decision needs to be respected.
Archbishop Ezzati and Archbishop Chomalí – both of whom have met with the government officials, as well as the strikers and their families – issued statements also. Archbishop Chomalí, who earlier in the week offered his services as mediator, indicated his wish that the Catholic Church could have stopped the trial carried out against the Mapuche prisoners. Archibishop Ezzati went a different direction with his comments, indicating that it was not his place to judge the legality of the events that took place. He did, however, emphasize that the Supreme Court reduced the sentences of the prisoners and that this fact should not be overlooked. He then turned his attention to the hunger strikers and urged them to stop their strike while stressing the importance of life, calling it a “fundamental gift that allows all other gifts.” Later in the afternoon, Archbishop Ezzati met with the families of the strikers for approximately 40 minutes and after that meeting he indicated that their currently was no room for mediation between the two sides.
In addition to the above comments which include members of the judicial and executive branches, many legislators have made statements in the past 48 hours about the case. A sampling of such statements are listed below:
Senator Carlos Larrain (RN): “Yesterday, the Supreme Court took an important step by reducing the penalties substantially,” but a review of the process and application of the Antiterrorism Law is still necessary.
Senator Alejandro Navarro (MAS): [Given before the verdict was announced.] “Today, we will know whether or not Chile is a democracy, [because] if the Supreme Court allows the testimony of faceless witnesses and the procedural abuses found in the Antiterrorism Act, that statement will announce the death of our democratic system.”
Senator Jaime Quintana (PPD): “I think the decision of the Supreme Court is insufficient because the military courts had already acquitted the Mapuche individuals [on the same charges] and it is only logical that the Supreme Court act similarly.” The Senator went on to say, “Although this ruling shows that time for the Antiterrorism Law is nearing an end, this is not enough. The political world and the Government must pick this up and make the appropriate modifications…Only when the Antiterrorism is gone can those who defend human rights celebrate.”
Deputy Sergio Ojeda (DC): Today, we “will push for a substantial change to the Antiterrorism Law in order to end a series of unfair processes that violate the right to a fair trial, and we will even discuss its repeal.” Ojeda added, “We do not approve of the Supreme Court’s decision to lower sentences because overturning the convictions is what was desired since the convictions had been achieved with use of the Antiterrorsim Law, which violated the rights of the accused.”