In a decision written on Tuesday, August 16th, the Valparaíso Court of Appeals rejected the claim of the Hito clan (Rapa Nui) that they are the proper owners of the lands where the Hotel Hanga Roa sits (on Easter Island). The Court grounded its decision on the fact that the Hito clan could not provide proper documentation demonstrating that they had inherited the land from their ancestors. The Hito’s lawyer has indicated that the Court failed to take into account international rights and said the decision will be appealed.
The Court’s decision indicated that the Hito clan acknowledged the fact that, in 1970, the Chilean government donated the land for the hotel to a legal entity which ultimately sold that land to the current owners. And beyond that, the Court stated that the Rapa Nui people could not establish rightful ownership of the lands. Despite the decision, Emol reports that the case can go to the Chilean Supreme Court for a final determination on the matter.
The case in question is the latest in an ongoing land dispute between the Hito clan of the Rapa Nui people and the Schiess family, who own the Hotel Hanga Roa and the land it sits on. The ongoing conflict has included peaceful occupation of the Hotel by Rapa Nui individuals, violent confrontations between police and unarmed demonstrators, forceful evictions of Rapa Nui protestors and, most recently, various legal battles — including a complaint that has been filed with the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, a body of the Organization of American States (OAS).