International community steps in to stop violence against the Rapa Nui Nation

Comunicado de Prensa en español

February 7, 2011

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Escalating violence between the Rapa Nui indigenous communities and the Chilean government on Rapa Nui Island, also known as "Easter Island," has led to action by an international human rights body.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has granted precautionary measures to immediately stop the violent use of armed forces against the Rapa Nui clans and to begin an investigation on recent events.  The precautionary measures were requested by the Indian Law Resource Center on behalf of the Rapa Nui Nation.

“The action by the IACHR validates our concerns that human rights are being violated on Rapa Nui Island,” said Leonardo Crippa, an attorney with the Indian Law Resource Center. “The Chilean government must review its policy on Rapa Nui issues, take measures to comply with international human rights law, and begin a fair dialogue with the Rapa Nui Nation.”

The precautionary measures call on the Chilean government to guarantee that no state action would ever put at risk the clan members’ right to life and humane treatment within protests or evictions, including evictions from both public and private properties.  The IACHR will more than likely moderate negotiations between the Rapa Nui and the Chilean government to seek peaceful solutions.

The decision comes at a critical time.  As recently as Sunday, February 6, 2011 Chilean armed forces carried out another eviction.  Members of the Hito clan, occupying a hotel which sits on their ancestral lands, were arrested.

“Chile should immediately discontinue the use of violent collective evictions, arrests and criminal persecutions against the Rapa Nui clan members occupying their ancestral lands in order to first properly address the Rapa Nui Nation’s legitimate land claims,” said Crippa.

In late 2010, Chile sent additional troops to the small island and began forcibly removing Rapa Nui clan members from their traditional lands and sacred sites.  Two incidences in December 2010 led to violent encounters and the arrests of at least 10 Rapa Nui clan members. In both incidents, unarmed clan members were beaten and shot with rubber bullets.

The island is in the southeastern Pacific Ocean and is a special territory of Chile, annexed in 1933 without the consent of the Rapa Nui Nation. Most of the 36 Rapa Nui clans have been engaged in a collective effort to recover their ancestral lands, protect sacred sites, and regain self-government over clan issues. 

During a fact-finding trip to Rapa Nui Island in August 2010, Indian Law Resource Center staff documented first-hand the serious threat the Rapa Nui face with the Chilean police.  The precautionary measures were filed in October 2010 when more troops arrived on the island.


About the Indian Law Resource Center

The Indian Law Resource Center is a non-profit law and advocacy organization established and directed by American Indians. The Center is based in Helena, Montana and also has an office in Washington, DC.  We provide legal assistance without charge to Indian and Alaska Native nations who are working to protect their lands, resources, human rights, environment and cultural heritage. Our principal goal is the preservation and well-being of Indian and other Native nations and tribes.  For more information, please visit us online at www.indianlaw.orgor