Violent Evictions Continue on Rapa Nui (Easter Island)

Chilean forces continue to target peaceful Rapa Nui individuals, including unarmed women and children occupying their ancestral land. Over the past five months, Rapa Nui clan members have been peacefully reclaiming their ancestral territories. There is now overwhelming military force on the island.  

The most recent eviction was carried out on February 6, 2011 by Chilean armed forces. Members of the Hito clan, who for weeks were occupying the Hanga Roa Hotel which sits on their ancestral lands, were arrested. It is reported that armed Chilean police were surrounding the hotel 24 hours a day for weeks. Many feared for the protestors’ safety and welfare, as reports said electricity, food, and water had been cut off since January 13.

Many clan members have been injured as a result of the recent evictions. According to news reports, an eviction on December 29, 2010 was carried out against peaceful protesters gathering at a public square. Some of these individuals suffered serious injuries, such as fractures and head wounds, after police forces reportedly fired pellet guns at them.

The Ministry of the Interior has failed to hear the legitimate land ownership claims of the Rapa Nui clans. Several members of the international community, including U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,  U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), and Congressman Eni Faleomavaega (D-American Samoa) have issued statements or sent letters to Chilean officials expressing concern about criminal prosecutions of Rapa Nui political leaders and the ongoing disproportionate use of force by Chilean Special Forces against Rapa Nui clan members.  

Chile's Congressional Commission of Foreign Affairs and the Human Rights Commission of the House of Representatives both requested a review of the situation, but the executive branch of the government is continuing with the evictions. The Chilean Supreme Court also recently rejected an amparo filed by a private party against the Hito clan. On October 3, 2010, the Rapa Nui people filed a request for "precautionary measures" from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to stop the violent evictions. This week Commission granted precautionary measures to immediately stop the violent use of armed forces and to launch an investigation on the situation.

The Indian Law Resource Center is providing pro bono legal assistance to the clan members.   

Indian Law Resource Center