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Mapuche Land Claims: Environmental Protest, Legal Discrimination and Customary Rights

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The Mapuche are an Indian tribe spread over Chile and Argentina who have suffered from the appropriation of their lands by the state. The latest court case decided in June 2011 by the Supreme Court of Santiago adjudged under the National Security Act 1984 enforced the anti-terrorism law against the protestors who had been demanding environmental rights. This draconian legislation was drafted under martial law and is part of a framework that was introduced in an emergency imposed between 1972–1998 in Chile. It led to the suppression of protest on environmental rights and the disenfranchisement of the Mapuche. The tribe has been protesting against the breach of accords signed with the government and the management of their lands. It has led to court cases that have not yet served a precedence that the tribe can rely on for the preservation of their lands. As the land based protest gathers momentum the enforcement of the anti-terrorist law is causing grave concern due to its breach of fundamental rights of due process. It invites an examination of whether the Chilean state is breaching the international covenants and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples 2007. In order for the human rights of the Mapuche to be respected the Chilean government has to repeal the laws that were enacted under the dictatorship, and furthermore there has to be a recognition of the customs and legal pluralism that will allow an alternative dispute mechanism which restores the cultural framework of the indigenous people.

Affiliations: 1: Barrister, Grays Inn, London, UK


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