Chile: Closure of investigation into crimes against Mapuche leader puts Indigenous Peoples at risk

The closure of the investigation into the alleged crimes of abduction and torture reported by the Mapuche leader Víctor Queipul Hueiquil sends a dangerous message to human rights defenders in the country, Amnesty International said today.

The Temuco Public Prosecutors Office announced today that it will close the case of Víctor Queipul Hueiquil, a Ionko (leader) of the Autonomous Community of Temucuicui, because they have been unable to identify those allegedly responsible for his detention from approximately 8pm on 14 June 2016 until 4am the following day.

The incident reported by the Ionko occurred in June 2016. Following a period of investigation, it appears that a comprehensive and impartial investigation was not carried out into the crimes reported.

This ruling sets a dangerous precedent and gives free rein to those seeking to silence Indigenous Peoples in Chile.
Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International

“This ruling sets a dangerous precedent and gives free rein to those seeking to silence Indigenous Peoples in Chile,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

“Reporting human rights violations is not a crime. Rather than punish those who dedicate their lives to fighting for justice, the Chilean authorities should protect them and their work and prosecute those who attack them.”

Víctor Queipul Hueiquil fights for the Mapuche Peoples’ claims to their ancestral lands, protection of their cultural and spiritual identity and for their self-determination.

For years members of this community have reported that they have suffered from police violence, torture and ill-treatment, legal persecution, stigmatization and criminalization because of their human rights work.

On 14 June 2016, a group of officers carried out a police operation into the Autonomous Community of Temucuicui’s land. The police officers shot tear gas and used anti-riot weapons.

In the context of this operation the Ionko was detained against his will without a court order by three unidentified individuals, from approximately 8pm on 14 June until 4am the following day.

During this time he was blindfolded, tied up and beaten. The men asked him for information on the location of weapons allegedly held by the community, they criticized his work with the Mapuche communities and his support of a machi (religious authority figure) who is being criminalized, and demanded that he stop his work fighting for the rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Ionko reported the incident at the Traiguén police station and subsequently filed a formal complaint.

The Public Prosecutors Office also targeted human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, in an attempt to discredit their work to support social organizations and Indigenous communities in Chile.