Late on Thursday, June 9th, the four Mapuche prisoners who had been on a hunger strike for 87 days made the decision to end their strike. They began the strike in March to protest alleged due process violations in the trial against them. Last Friday, June 3rd, the Supreme Court rejected the Mapuche individuals’ arguments. Yesterday the end of the hunger strike coincided with the formation of a Commission on the Rights of the Mapuche People, which includes both Mapuche and non-Mapuche individuals who will work together to ensure the protection and realization of rights for the Mapuche people.
Thus far, details on precisely how the Commission on the Rights of the Mapuche People will function and its relationship to the Chilean Government remain unclear, although the strikers’ spokesperson made it clear that it was the decision of the four prisoners to not involve any government personnel in the Commission. The Commission will, however, include several prominent non-Mapuche individuals, for example: Lorena Fries, the Director of the National Institute of Human Rights; Amérigo Incalcaterra, of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; and Fernando Chomalí, the Archbishop of Concepción. Describing the Commission, Chomalí stated, “We will work together for dialogue, reflection, and action that will be promoted in accordance with international standards.”
The decision to end the strike and create the Commission occurred after the four Mapuche individuals were rejoined with one another at the hospital in Victoria. Just 24 hours earlier, the four prisoners had been separated and sent to different hospitals in different cities in a move that the Government claimed was for their own health, but that also caused much controversy both in its substance and in how it was carried out. At the time, some speculated that the Government was close to force-feeding the four men, and after the announcement was made to end the strike, their spokeswoman, Natividad Llanquileo, indicated that being force-fed was a consideration of the prisoners when they decided to end the strike.
Below is a rough translation of the Mapuche prisoners’ official statement:
The signatories of this statement, convened by the Mapuche political prisoners on hunger strike, their lonko, machi and families, share an interest in respecting all of the rights of the Mapuche people and are committed to their promotion and defense. Therefore we declare:
- That Chile has committed through various international treaties to promote, respect and guarantee the political, economic, social, and cultural rights, as well as access to justice, without discrimination, on both an individual and collective level of Indigenous peoples. All branches of the Chilean State are obligated to uphold these rights.
- Despite the foregoing, territorial dispossession and the absence of political rights, and, more importantly, the militarization, criminalization and prosecution of legitimate demands has increased, for which responsibility falls on all branches of the Chilean State.
- The Mapuche peoples have suffered from great stigma and discrimination due to the application of exceptional laws, such as the Antiterrorism Law. This Act has been widely condemned for not conforming to international standards of due process. Responsibility again falls on all branches of Government, who, without exception, have not repealed nor redrafted it, and on others, who continue to invoke and apply it.
- It is in the context of the various hunger strikes by Mapuche political prisoners, which are an expression of an underlying problem, that we come to assume a real and permanent commitment to fulfilling these obligations, which we hope will include other actors. We assume this responsibility with the understanding that it is everyone’s duty to enforce rights and denounce their violation, in an active and coordinated manner.
- This commitment will express itself in a working group called [the] Commission on the Rights of the Mapuche People.
- Therefore we call on the Government to open a permanent and transparent dialogue in order to advance the respect for and guarantee of the rights of Indigenous peoples, and specifically to reform the Antiterrorism Act, as the President of the Republic indicated in his public address before Congress, to conform to international human rights standards.
- In light of this commitment our Mapuche brothers have decided to end their hunger strike.
- We urge the whole of society to adhere to this statement and to work for peace, the fruit of justice.
Monsignor Fernando Chomalí,
Archbishop of Concepción
Lorena Fries, Director,
National Institute of Human Rights
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Monsignor Pedro Ossandon,
Bishop of Concepción
Father José Fernando Díaz,
National Commissioner of the Southern Indigenous Pastoral Zone
Natividad Llanquileo Pilquimán,
Garrido Millaray Paillalef,
Pessoa Pamela Matus,