Chile: Human rights defender Juana Calfunao arbitrarily detained and then released

On 28 October 2015, human rights defender and indigenous leader, Ms Juana Calfunao Paillalef, was arbitrarily and violently arrested.

The attack occurred during a protest against the construction of a road (Los Laureles – Lago Colico) in the Mapuche indigenous people's ancestral lands.

Juana Calfunao Paillalef is an indigenous leader of the Mapuche Juan Paillalef tribe, located in Comunca de Cunco, in the Araucania region, Chile. She also works for the defence of indigenous peoples' rights to their ancestral lands, and has played a strong role in denouncing human rights violations committed against the Mapuche community by the companies conducting development and infrastructure projects in the region.

Ms Calfunao Paillalef presented this before the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) in October 2015, at the Regional Thematic Hearing on the Situation of Defenders of Human Rights in the context of the Extractive Industry in Latin American. In the same month the IACHR granted the human rights defender provisional measures to ensure her safety and her family's.

On the morning of 28 October 2015 Juana Calfunao was arbitrarily arrested and beaten by police while she was protesting against the construction of a road in the Mapuche's ancestral lands. As a result of the violent detention, she suffered injuries in her mouth and a broken tooth. The human rights defender was protesting by blocking the passage of a paving machine that was laying the asphalt on the road. The police violently disrupted the peaceful demonstration and arrested the human rights defender using excessive force. Following the incident Ms Juana Calfunao filed a writ (recurso de amparo), and judge María Teresa Villagrán declared her detention completely arbitrary and ordered her immediate release.

The arbitrary detention happened only two days after the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights' decision to grant precautionary measures to guarantee the life and integrity of the human rights defender. Ms Juana Calfunao has been a victim of judicial harassment and arbitrary detention before, in relation to her work as a human rights defender in Chile.

Front Line Defenders expresses its concern regarding the arbitrary and violent detention of Juana Calfunao Paillalef, and is concerned for her physical and psychological integrity and security. Front Line Defenders believes the detention of the human rights defender was intended to discourage her from carrying out her legitimate peaceful protests in defence of the Mapuche's right to their ancestral lands. It is also concerned for physical and psychological integrity of all members of the Mapuche indigenous people.

Source: Front Line Defenders

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