On Wednesday, May 22nd, Amnesty International released its annual report entitled, Amnesty International Report 2013: The State of the World’s Human Rights. Within it is a wealth of information on global human rights in the form of short summaries of major events that have taken place in each country around the world. With respect to the Southern Cone, the report discusses the condition of human rights for indigenous peoples in Argentina, Chile and Paraguay. Those portions related to indigenous peoples are reprinted below.
Argentina: In July, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples published a report expressing concerns about issues including the lack of measures to protect Indigenous Peoples’ rights to their lands and natural resources. The report also highlighted the failure to comply with Emergency Law 26.160 which prohibits the eviction of Indigenous communities pending a nationwide survey to define Indigenous territories.
A draft law to reform the Civil Code, which included measures that affect Indigenous Peoples’ rights to their traditional lands, was before Parliament at the end of the year. Indigenous Peoples expressed concern that their views had not been sought while the law was being discussed.
In March, the Supreme Court of Justice held a public hearing about obstacles preventing the Toba Qom community of La Primavera, Formosa province, from claiming traditional lands. In November, a Federal Court dropped the charges against Indigenous leaders Félix Díaz and Amanda Asikak in connection with a roadblock erected in 2010. The judges argued that the roadblock was the only protest measure available to them. Threats and acts of intimidation against Félix Díaz and members of his family remained a concern. In August, Félix Díaz was hit by a truck while he was on his motorbike. Witnesses said the truck belonged to the family that owns the traditional land claimed by the community. The driver fled and the accident had not been investigated by the end of the year.
Chile: In April, the Supreme Court confirmed a decision by an appeal court suspending a mining project in the north of the country until the local Indigenous community had been consulted, in accordance with ILO Convention No. 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples.
A government plan to replace the widely criticized 2009 decree governing consultation with Indigenous Peoples was rejected by a majority of Indigenous leaders in August. They argued that the new regulations did not comply with international standards on effective participation. In November, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples also expressed concerns at the definition of consultation in the government proposal.
There were renewed allegations of excessive use of force and arbitrary arrests during police operations against Mapuche Indigenous communities. Unfair trials of community members were reported. Clashes with the security forces resulted in the killing of a police officer in April.
In July, several members of the Mapuche Temucuicui community, including children, were injured after police fired rubber bullets and used tear gas to evict them from land they had occupied in Ercilla, Araucanía region, as part of their campaign for the return of their traditional territory.
In October, four Mapuche imprisoned in Angol prison called off their 60-day hunger strike after the Supreme Court granted a new trial for one of the men and imposed lesser charges on one other; his sentence was subsequently reduced from 10 years to prison to three years in parole. Both men had been initially convicted of the attempted murder of a policeman in 2011.
In August, a military court acquitted a policeman of the murder of Jaime Mendoza Collio, a 24-year-old Mapuche, in 2009. There were concerns about the impartiality of investigations into this case and about the use of military courts to deal with crimes committed by members of the police and military against civilians.
Paraguay: Progress was made in resolving the land claims of some Indigenous communities, but other communities continued to be denied their traditional lands.
The Sawhoyamaxa continued to live in appalling conditions by the side of a main road because their traditional lands had not been returned to them, despite a ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in 2006 in their favour. In November, negotiations between the authorities and the landowner started again after the community organized protests and a roadblock. No agreement on the land had been reached by the end of the year.
In February, an agreement between the authorities and a landowner secured lands claimed by the Yakye Axa. At the end of the year the Yakye Axa were waiting to move onto the land. The community development fund that the Inter-American Court of Human Rights had requested be set up in its 2005 ruling had not been established by the end of the year.
In August, police tried to evict more than 30 families of an Ava Guaraní community in the Itakyry district. Community members stated that the police burned down a number of huts. The land on which the community had lived for some 70 years was claimed by a commercial company. However, the community argued that they had a legal title to the land.
The entire report can be read here.