Imprisoned Mapuche life's at risk
Since 4 May 2020, machi Celestino Córdova Tránsito started a hunger strike in Temuco (South), together with 8 others Mapuche prisoners in the city of Angol.
He is demanding respect for his rights as a spiritual leader of the Mapuche people, which requires him to have a physical proximity to his land and a specific sacred place, which represents the connection between the earthly and spiritual world. Staying for so long away from this place affects his health gravely, in addition to the effects of the hunger strike. In addition, the risks added by the COVID-19 pandemic should be considered.
All prisoners in hunger strike are demanding the application of ILO Convention 169, allowing prisoners to serve their sentence or pre-trial detention in their lands and not a prison. On July 6, 11 other prisoners started a hunger strike in Lebu, and on July 20, 7 additional Mapuche prisoners began a hunger strike in Temuco, all in support to the initial 9. Of the 27 Mapuche prisoners currently on hunger strike, 19 are on pre-trial detention and have not yet been convicted.
Machi Celestino Córdova is convicted for homicide as a result of arson and has still to serve 10 years in prison.
A decision from the Temuco Court of Appeals allows feeding machi Celestino Córdova even against his will or that of his family. At present such a decision has not yet been executed. He has clearly declared that he does not want to be fed, refusing treatment. This has raised a further concern that he may be force-fed against his will.
His defense filed a petition to the Temuco Court of Appeals to request approval so that he serves his sentence in his land for 6 months, which was denied. This was appealed before the Supreme Court, and a decision is pending.
The Chilean government has dodged their responsibility in this situation, stating that their demands cannot be met under current legislation and took a lot of time to publicly react to the situation. Recent statements from the Minister of Interior said that their main concern is to save Celestino Córdova’s life, and seemed to open a possibility of dialogue, but also sparked further fears of a possible force-feeding.
Independent doctors from the Chilean Medical Association (Colegio Médico de Chile) visited machi Celestino Córdova on August 10, 2020, and informed that he is in critical condition and his death mesperaight be imminent. Machi Celestino Córdova has sent an audio message to his spokespeople, saying what he considers to be his farewell message.