On Friday, May 25th, the Chilean Supreme Court announced their decision in a case involving the Mapuche community of José Jineo. The case sought to protect Mapuche women and children from police abuse, and was in response to a number of police raids that occurred in that community during the month of January. Ultimately, the Supreme Court stated there was insufficient evidence to suggest that Chilean police officers had inappropriately used their powers in the Mapuche community.
The case in question was originally brought on behalf of the women and children of the Mapuche community of José Jineo by Chile’s National Institute of Human Rights (Instituto Nacional de Derechos Humanos or INDH) on February 3, 2012. The allegations were that the police had engaged in conduct which has harmed the physical and mental integrity of minors in the region. INDH has said they hoped the legal action would result in the court ordering whatever measures necessary to protect the affected youths from future violations.
The case arose out of the events that took place on January 10th in the same community. At that time, an incident occurred — that was caught on video — where the police allegedly used unnecessary force again a woman who was holding her 2-year-old child in her arms at the time. The incident is just one, of many, police abuses that has been alleged in the Araucanía Region over the past several months.
The case was originally filed in the Temuco Court of Appeals. There, on March 16, the Mapuche community won a victory as the appellate court concluded that Chilean police (carabineros) were abusing their powers and ordered the police to resist taking any actions that may harm children. The Supreme Court, however, disagreed. And, in a split decision released Friday, the Supreme Court found no arbitrary use of force. The Court went on to say that every police action must be in strict compliance with human rights and constitutional guarantees, but that in this case such violations were not supported by the facts.