The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination today concluded its consideration of the combined twenty-second to twenty-third periodic report of Chile, during which its Experts asked about indigenous peoples’ inclusion in public and political life, and about migrants’ access to rights and fundamental guarantees.
On the issue of indigenous peoples, a Committee Expert asked what measures could Chile put in place to narrow the glaring gaps in the socio-economic conditions of indigenous peoples as well as increase their numbers and overall participation in local and national representation positions? Another Expert was particularly concerned about numerous reports of excessive use of force by law enforcement officers, in particular in the context of demonstrations, and in particular concerning members of the Mapuche indigenous people. Was there an ongoing dialogue with indigenous communities to address the issue of the use of force?
As for the situation of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees, an Expert noted that an Immigrants Committee had been established as part of the Inclusion Agenda 2015-2018, with the aim of helping to improve the quality of life of migrant families by facilitating their access to adequate housing solutions and encouraging their participation in neighbourhood and city programmes. Could the State party inform the Committee about the results of that process? A Committee Expert asked what measures were being taken to ensure migrants were informed about their rights, and knew about the procedures in place to determine their status.
Responding to those questions and comments, the delegation of Chile noted that in 2015, a consultation process had been carried out with indigenous populations across the country, and an agreement had been made whereby a Ministry for Indigenous Peoples had been greenlighted. The Ministry was equipped with designing public policies, while the Council had indigenous representation, and the National Service for Indigenous Persons implemented the public policies to benefit indigenous communities. In Chile’s legislation, a victim was a rights-holder. In the case of migrant victims, there was a strengthened statute for their protection, in particular when it came to trafficking or people smuggling. Migrant victims were extremely vulnerable, and it was important to be proactive when it came to providing protection. Crimes against migrants were particularly of concern for the Public Prosecution Service due to their effect on the protection of fundamental rights.
Andrea Balladares, Vice-Secretary of the Ministry of Social Development and Family of Chile and head of the delegation, presenting the report, said the 2021 law on migration and aliens contained the fundamental rights of migrants and their access to social benefits. The Chilean State recognised the existence of 10 indigenous peoples, and the census stated that around one tenth of the population considered itself to belong to an indigenous people. A fundamental aspect to guarantee participation and respect for indigenous peoples was the exercise of prior consultation, and public officials had received education and training in consultation processes and implementing intercultural dialogue. A law granting legal recognition to Chilean Afro-descendant tribal people established obligations for the State of Chile toward the Chilean Afro-descendant population.
Manuel Valderrama, Minister to the Supreme Court of Chile, said that various instruments had been adopted by the judiciary to facilitate access to justice, including a policy for court user support, as well as a protocol for the protection of unaccompanied and separated children and adolescents in the context of migration.
The delegation of Chile consisted of representatives of the Ministry of Social and Family Development; Araucanía Regional Prosecutor, Public Prosecutor’s Office of Chile; the Supreme Court of Chile; the Ministry of the Interior and Public Security; the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the Presidency; and the Permanent Mission of Chile to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
Summaries of the public meetings of the Committee can be found here, while webcasts of the public meetings can be found here. The programme of work of the Committee’s one hundred and fifth session and other documents related to the session can be found here.
The Committee will next meet in public on Friday, 3 December, at a time to be announced later, to formally close its one hundred and fifth session.
The Committee has before it the combined twenty-second and twenty-third periodic report of Chile (CERD/C/CHL/22-23).
Presentation of the Report
ANDREA BALLADARES, Vice-Secretary of the Ministry of Social Development and Family of Chile and head of the delegation, presenting the report, said Chile was participating in the dialogue as a demonstration of its commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights, the rule of law and democracy. Highlighting some key actions in preventing any type of racial discrimination, she said that Chile had made headway in terms of its public institutional framework, creating the Undersecretariat for Human Rights, a body which promoted and coordinated public policies and legislation in that area. An Inter-ministerial Human Rights Committee had also been established, which was an advisory body to the President of the Republic. The Ministry of Women and Gender Equality was the governing body which designed, coordinated and assessed policies, plans and programmes for gender equity and equality.
The 2021 law on migration and aliens contained the fundamental rights of migrants and their access to social benefits. The text created a new migration institutional framework to ensure the protection and promotion of those rights and guarantees. The Chilean State recognised the existence of 10 indigenous peoples, and the census stated that around one tenth of the population considered itself to belong to an indigenous people. A new National Agreement provided for the strengthening of Mapuche medicine and complementarity with the health system, among other measures. A fundamental aspect to guarantee participation and respect for indigenous peoples was the exercise of prior consultation, and public officials had received education and training in consultation processes and implementing intercultural dialogue. A law granting legal recognition to Chilean Afro-descendant tribal people established obligations for the State of Chile toward the Chilean Afro-descendant population.
One of the major challenges facing Chile was the drafting of a new Constitution, said Ms. Balladares. As a precursor to the current constitutional dialogue process, Chile had published a constitutional reform that would reserve seats for representatives of indigenous peoples. It was hoped that the draft text of the new Constitution would enjoy constitutional recognition of indigenous peoples. The proposed new Constitution would be submitted to a public vote for approval and would respect the international treaties ratified by Chile.
Turning to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ms. Balladares said Chile had implemented a successful vaccination process, making a special effort to ensure that the indigenous populations had access to vaccines. Testing and vaccination had included the migrant population under the same conditions as the national population. Chile was participating in this constructive dialogue and recognised achievements made as well as challenges. It was only through constructive and sincere dialogue that headway could be made for better policies for the eradication of any type of racial discrimination.
MANUEL VALDERRAMA, Minister to the Supreme Court of Chile, said that in order to meet people’s needs and provide a justice system capable of protecting peoples’ rights, Chile had implemented an online interpretation and translation service aiming to facilitate communication between justice officials and those using other languages, including sign language. Various instruments had been adopted by the judiciary to facilitate access to justice, including a policy for court user support, as well as a protocol for the protection of unaccompanied and separated children and adolescents in the context of migration. Projects to combat discrimination against women and improve their access to justice included a handbook for the use of gender-inclusive language by the Chilean Judicial Branch. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a writ had been implemented which regulated the use of technological means, among other measures, aimed at ensuring continued access to justice. The judiciary was committed to the elimination of racial discrimination and access to justice for all persons, regardless of their nationality and ethnic or racial background.
Questions by Committee Experts
VERENE A. SHEPHERD, Committee Vice-Chairperson and Country Rapporteur for Chile, welcomed the delegation, noting that it included members from the executive and judicial branches, as well as delegates from specialised agencies. She further took note that the State party’s report was compiled through an inter-Ministerial process and that it benefitted from the input of the National Human Rights Institute and civil society through the information, communication and dissemination activities undertaken by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The issue for the Committee was that it was hard to gauge the impact of all the policies, programmes and constitutional provisions as they related to the most vulnerable members of the society.
How did Chile propose to generate reliable data on people of African descent in the population? The Committee had found a lack of information on Roma people even though it had received information that there were between 15,000 and 45,000 Roma people in Chile. Could the State party provide reliable statistics on the Roma population?
Turning to the Convention in national law and the institutional and policy framework for its implementation, she noted that the Committee in its last concluding observations from 2013 had encouraged the State party to consider establishing an Ombudsman’s Office with a section specialising in issues of racial discrimination, whose staff would include intercultural facilitators at the local level. When would the required legal modification be made to implement that recommendation? Had advancements been made in creating an Ombudsman’s Office?
Next, Ms. Shepherd turned to measures to combat racial discrimination and the dissemination of messages that promoted the spread of racial stereotypes and prejudice against indigenous persons, people of African descent and migrants. Would the State party consider taking measures to verify whether the small number of complaints on racial discrimination matters were the result of victims’ lack of awareness of their rights; fear of reprisals, including migratory reprisals; limited access to the police; lack of confidence in the police or judicial authorities; or the lack of attention or sensitivity to cases of racial discrimination? What measures could Chile implement to combat the use of racist stereotypes in the media? How could the State party support media run by indigenous peoples, in particular radio stations?
Turning to the situation of human rights defenders, the case of environmental human rights defender, Alberto Curamil, was troubling. Could the State party update the Committee on his situation? Specifically, what were the charges against him and how were they being dealt with? Under the rubric of multiple forms of discrimination, reports coming to the Committee indicated that medical treatment offered to Haitian/Black women/migrants were at times affected by stereotypes of their ability to endure pain. How could health workers be trained to avoid such contravention of their duty of care? Could the State party provide the Committee with further information about the circumstances under which Wislande Jean, Rebeka Pierre and Monise Joseph from Lampa Camp died?
MEHRDAD PAYANDEH, Committee Member and member of the task force for Chile, asked if the delegation could elaborate on how far institutional reforms had been conducted on the basis of participation of civil society organizations? What was the mandate of the Office of the Undersecretary for Human Rights, and did it exercise oversight functions? Noting that the Office had a focus on human rights training, could the delegation elaborate on that and explain if part of that training was on racial discrimination?
With reference to constitutional developments, could the delegation provide further information about the current status of the new drafting procedure? How was it ensured that the interests of minorities were adequately addressed? Concerns had been raised with regard to the lack of legislation dealing with hate speech and the dissemination of racist ideas. Could the delegation comment on plans to legislate hate speech and incitement to racial hatred? Could the Committee have information on the regulation of hate speech as it concerned the media?
Turning to the general anti-discrimination law of Chile, could the delegation provide further information about the numbers of cases? The Committee would like to know more about the National Council and Council of Indigenous Peoples, and the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples. What was the current state of those endeavours? Turning to access to justice, could the delegation provide further information on the qualification of specialised defence counsels? Could the delegation comment on information about prisoners not being able to live according to their culture and tradition?
On the matter of racial discrimination and law enforcement, the Committee was concerned about numerous reports of excessive use of force by law enforcement officers, in particular in the context of demonstrations, and in particular concerning members of the Mapuche indigenous people. Could the delegation provide disaggregated data on the use of force by law enforcement agencies? What measures were being taken to prevent excessive use of force? Was there an ongoing dialogue with indigenous communities to address the issue of the use of force?
The Committee was concerned about the continuation of the state of constitutional emergency, and the militarisation of the conflict with the Mapuche, which had already led to the death and bodily harm of members of that community. Could the delegation provide information about a demonstration against the state of emergency which had taken place in the Bio Bio region?
GUN KUT, Committee Member and follow-up Rapporteur, noted that the Committee’s concluding observations from 2013 had included recommendations on issues including racial discrimination offenses and racist hate speech; and the absence of a national law in full conformity with article 4 of the Convention.