The Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR), a body within the Organization of American States, has issued Precautionary Measures to protect the Rapa Nui people on Easter Island.
The Commission also demanded Chile’s Interior Ministry to issue a full report on the situation within 10 days of the demand’s initial presentation on Monday,
The IACHR’s order comes after members of the Hito clan, of the indigenous Rapa Nui people, were evicted last Sunday from the Hotel Hanga Roa, which they occupied for six months claiming ancestral rights on the property the hotel sits upon.
Rapa Nui clans also occupied 17 government buildings in the months since August, but were gradually evicted from all of those sites, through various levels of force. In late December, several unarmed clan members were beaten and shot with rubber bullets and 10 were arrested.
The Indian Law Resource Centre, an indigenous rights organization, brought the issue to the international arena after the first evictions in September. The US-based organization is representing 29 of the island’s 36 Rapa Nui clans, and has included the subsequent evictions in the same request.
According to Indian Law attorney Leonardo Crippa, the IACHR also ordered the government to “immediately discontinue the use of violent collective evictions, arrests and criminal persecutions against the Rapa Nui clan members”.
“The action by the IACHR validates our concerns that human rights are being violated on Rapa Nui Island,” said Crippa.
“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.”
Marisol Hito, a member of the Hito clan, said police forces used unnecessary violence in evicting clan members from the hotel. She said that the clan was willing to “go to the very end” to have their demands fulfilled, and accused the government of colluding with the Scheiss family, who own the hotel.
“The government had absolutely nothing to do with the evictions” responded Raúl Celis, governor of the Valparaíso Region, who has jurisdiction on Easter Island. Celis also denied that any violence was used against the occupants.
The Schiess family, owners of the Hanga Roa Hotel, said that they will evaluate the building’s damages and will likely take legal action against the former occupiers.
The hotel was first occupied on Aug. 1, in the middle of a 5 million US dollars remodelling project which was then put on hold.
In addition to the stalled remodelling effort, the Schiess family calculated over 6 million USD losses through the end of January.
The eviction took place despite a previous United Nations call on the government to halt police action and help diffuse tensions. The U N recommendation was to “avoid new evictions and police presence on the island that exceeds what is necessary and proportional”.
Since the eviction on Sunday, the atmosphere is reported to have grown increasingly tense on Easter Island. The island’s security committee met Monday to discuss measures to avoid public riots during the trial involving the 17 occupants evicted from the hotel. Police reinforcements from the mainland were called in after almost 2,000 tourists arrived on the island on Monday to celebrate Tepati, a Rapa Nui traditional feast.
As ordered by regional prosecutor Samuel Nuñez, the Hotel Hanga Roa remains guarded by 30 police officers to avoid a new occupation. Nuñez said that “police will guard [the hotel] for at least a few more days” as the occupants’ trial takes place.
By Ignacio Gallegos- Santiago Times