About Us

Centre for Investigation and Defence South (CIDSUR)



The Mapuche are a group of indigenous inhabitants of south-central Chile and south-western Argentina. They constitute a wide-ranging ethnicity composed of various groups who share a common social, religious and economic structure, as well as a common linguistic heritage. The Mapuche make up 4.6% of the Chilean population.

Mapuche society in Araucanía and Patagonia remained independent from both Inca and Spanish rule until the Chilean Occupation of Araucanía and the Argentine Conquest of the Desert in late 19th century.  The Chilean State interned a significant percentage of the Mapuche, banned Mapudungun (the native language) and destroyed the Mapuche herding, agricultural and trading economies, while also looting Mapuche property. The government created a system of reserves called ‘reducciones’ along similar lines to North American reservation systems. Subsequent generations of Mapuche have lived in extreme poverty as a result of having been conquered and having lost their traditional lands.

The Mapuche traditional economy is based on agriculture and their relationship to the land is paramount to their culture, society and beliefs. The name Mapuche means people of the land.

The Chilean government has in some ways tried to redress some of the inequities of the past. In 1993, the National Congress passed Law No. 19 253 (Indigenous Law) which officially recognized the Mapuche people and seven other ethnic minorities, as well as the Mapudungun language and culture. Mapundungun is now included in the curriculum of elementary schools around Temuco.

Background of the current situation:

The recent conflict began to emerge in the 1990s after the return to democracy, when some indigenous communities (80% of which are Mapuche) began demanding that certain lands which were now property of logging and farming companies be returned to them. Several Mapuche organizations are now also demanding the right of self-recognition as indigenous peoples, as recognized under the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the General Assembly of the United Nations.

The call for action for redistribution of land is also tied to current environmental campaigns to prevent the construction of further mines, dams and hydroelectric plants in the South of Chile. 2009 saw land occupations, demonstrations, forest fires and threats from the indigenous communities and those supporting them towards the government and Chilean and foreign companies.

The offenses and acts committed by Mapuche and non-indigenous activists have been and are currently being prosecuted under counter-terrorism legislation originally introduced by the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990). The law allows prosecutors to withhold evidence from the defense for up to six months and to conceal the identity of witnesses, who may give evidence in court behind screens. In 2010, the Mapuche launched a number of hunger strikes in attempt to change in the anti-terrorism legislation.

Overview of the organization:

The Centre for Investigation and Defence South (CIDSUR) is a not-for-profit, non-governmental, community organisation working in the South of Chile, to investigate and document violations of Human Rights. They provide legal assistance to predominately indigenous individuals (Mapuches) both adults and children who, through their participation in civil protests to reclaim their native lands or against government action, have either been arrested or interrogated by officials of the State.

Officially founded in 2011, CIDSUR has been operational in some form since 2010. The team is comprised of a group of human rights lawyers who came together under a common cause to support and defend the indigenous community. Since then, they have worked protecting the human rights of both Mapuche people and other inhabitants in the South of Chile who have been accused of crimes associated with social protests. Different state institutions and departments often bring in ‘laws of exceptions’ to prosecute these individuals. (Law No.18.314 regarding terrorist acts and Law No.19.927 regarding inland security of the state – counter-terrorism legislation mentioned above)

In addition, the group works to bring cases against military and police officials who, through their interventions during protests, stand accused of violations of human rights including torture and inhumane and degrading treatment of ingenious and non-indigenous individuals.

Main objectives of CIDSUR:

To provide free specialised legal support and representation to all who face prosecution by the Chilean state and who are vulnerable to human rights violations, focusing on Mapuche children and adults.

To support, investigate and defend in court indigenous and non-indigenous citizens both adults and children who stand accused of crimes associated with civil protest to ensure that they have a fair and just legal trial and that their human rights are protected.

To monitor and protect human rights, through research and documentation of cases where there is a direct violation by state agents and individuals of those rights.

Main beneficiaries:

All people, both indigenous and non-indigenous, minors and adults, women and men living in southern Chile, that are affected by unfair and discriminatory actions that violate their fundamental human rights by agents of the state and its justice system.

Our Team:

Pablo Ortega Manosalva: Human rights defense attorney, graduate of the Universidad de Concepción. Since 1992, he has served as a legal advisor to local artisanal fisherman in the Bio-Bio Region. Beginning in 2000, he has represented indigenous leaders in emblematic criminal cases against prosecution from the State. In the same way, he has also defended civilians against the Chilean military justice system.

Karina Riquelme Viveros: Human rights defense attorney, graduate of the Universidad Católica de Temuco (UCT) with additional post graduate work in Human Rights and Indigenous Peoples at the same university. She has specialized experience in defending the rights of children and adolescents. Since 2007, she has been involved in the defense and promotion of the collective rights of indigenous peoples. In 2010, she was dedicated to criminal defense related to the application of the Anti-Terrorism Law against indigenous leaders. She has also represented cases involving children and adolescent Mapuche people whose rights were violated by state agents.

Eduardo Mella Seguel: Social worker from the Universidad de la Frontera in Temuco with post-graduate studies in psychological conduct in political violence and disaster from the Universidad Complutense in Madrid. Since 2000, he has participated in various research initiatives and provided accompanying support for Mapuche communities. Among the various investigations he has participated in: “Los derechos de los pueblos indígenas en Chile” (English: “The Rights of the Indigenous People of Chile”) (LOM/IEI 2003) “Indebido Proceso” (English: “Un-due Process”) (HRW/Observatorio 2004), “Derechos humanos y pueblos indígenas” (English: “Human Rights and Indigenous Peoples”) (Observatorio/IGWIA 2005),   “El gobierno de Lagos, los pueblos indígenas y el nuevo trato” (English: “The Lagos Government, Indigenous Peoples, and the New Deal.”) (LOM / Observatorio 2007). In 2006, he co-authored “Cartas Pehuenches” (English: Pehuenches Letters) which appeared in Anales de Desclasificación, Volume II, of the Laboratorio de Desclasificación Comparada. In 2007, he published the book, “Los Mapuche ante la justicia; la criminalización de la protesta social indígena en Chile” (English: “The Mapuche People in Court; the Criminalization of Indigenous Protest in Chile”), and in 2010 was coauthor of the book, “Las Razones del Illkun/Enojo; memoria, despojo y criminalización en el territorio mapuche de Malleco,” which received a prize for best liteary work in 2011 from the National Council for Culture and the Arts (Premio Nacional Mejor Obra Literaria 2011 categoría ensayo, del Consejo Nacional de la Cultura y Las Artes).

Sebastián Saavedra Cea: Defense Attorney from the Univerisdad de Chile. Since 2009, he has been dedicated to seeking justice for victims of human rights violations under the Chilean military dictatorship through representation in criminal proceedings. He has been the defense attorney in criminal cases related to the application of the Anti-Terrorism Law against indigenous leaders. He has also represented those who have brought lawsuits against agents of the state for unlawful coercion against Mapuche adults and underage children.

Carolina Contreras Rivera: Lawyer from the Universidad de Chile. Since 2009, she has worked with and provided support to human rights defense attorneys in Temuco. She forms part of the Action Network for Environmental Rights (RADA – Red de Acción por los Derechos Ambientales). Since 2011, she has been part of several activities related to work this group has undertaken, namely around framing environmental and social rights as fundamental human rights. She has post-graduate studies in gender and social action in the context of intercultural relations from the Universidad de la Frontera.

Myrna Villegas Díaz: Doctor of Law with a postgraduate degree in Criminology from the Universidad de Salamanca, Spain; Lawyer with a degree in Law and Social Sciences from the Faculty of Law at the Universidad de Chile. Research areas: the legal treatment of terrorism, criminal law and indigenous peoples, and criminal law and gender. Researcher and coordinator of the Master’s program in Criminal Law at Universidad Central. Visiting professor, faculty of Law, Universidad de Valparaiso. Founding member of the American Association of Penal Law and Criminology (Asociación Latinoamericana de Derecho Penal y Criminología). General Consultant of the Standing Committee of Latin America for the Prevention of Crime (based in Brazil). Member of the Scientific Committee of the Portal Iberoamericano de Ciencias Penales, as well as a member of the editorial board Domeyko Journal and Society at the Universidad de Chile and the History and Justice Journal. She has developed various research investigations since 2004 regarding the criminalization of the Mapuche people, criminal law and legal pluralism, and the effects of criminalization, as well as having two projects “Fondecyt regular” and several projects funded by universities. She has provided assistance on two draft successive Chilean penal codes (2006 and 2013), and has provided consulting, expertise, and/or training Public Defender’s Office (Defensoría Penal Pública) in matters of terrorism, criminal law, and indigenous peoples. Some of her notable publications: Estado de excepción y antiterrorismo en Chile. Criminalización de la protesta social con especial referencia a los indígenas.  Revista de Derecho Penal y Criminología, AÑO III, N° 6, Julio 2013, Edit. La Ley, Buenos Aires, pp. 3-25, “Entre la exculpación y la justificación. Apuntes de legislación comparada latinoamericana sobre pluralismo jurídico y derecho penal”.  Revista de derecho (Valdivia), de la Universidad Austral de Chile. (Indexación: Scielo). Vol. XXV, Nº 2 (diciembre 2012), pp. 177-205. Los delitos de terrorismo en el Anteproyecto de Código PenalRevista Política Criminal Nº2, A3, Santiago, Chile, 2006, p.1-31,www.politicacriminal.cl(Indexación: Scielo Destacan sus libros: Contribuciones críticas al sistema penal de la post modernidad. Libro Homenaje a Eduardo Novoa Monreal. Ediciones Universidad Central. 2008; Derecho Penal del enemigo y la criminalización del pueblo mapuche. Ediciones La Cátedra, Colección de artículos y conferencias, 2009. Sus contribuciones en Biopolíticas del Sur, I. Cassigoli y M. Sobarzo eds. Editorial Universidad Arcis, 2010; y Jurisprudencia Indígena. Cosmovisión y legislación, Milka Castro y Juan Vergara Eds., Programa de Antropología Jurídica Universidad de Chile.  Publicación Ministerio de Justicia, 2009

Fabien Le Bonniec: Anthropologist and Ethno-historian born in Paris. Since 1997, he has done various studies regarding the relationship between the Mapuche people and the Chilean state. In 2009, he graduated with highest distinction from the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences) (EHESS – Paris) with doctorate degrees in Social Anthropology and Ethnology and also in History focusing on Ethno-History from the Universidad de Chile.

Pablo Camilo Villar Maureira: Licensed attorney from the Univeridad de Chile with post-graduate studies specializing in Latin American Social Movements and Community Self-management from the Corporación Educacional Poblar. Since 2010, he has worked to develop legal policy strategies with different social movements, such as the Movimiento de Pobladores (Settlers Movement). In 2012, he was an attorney for the Human Rights Office of the Legal Assistance Corporation. Currently, he is part of Urgent Action (Oficina Especializada en Derechos Humanos Acción Urgente) – a non-profit human rights organization based in Santiago.

Matías Meza-Lopehandía G.: Attorney from the Universidad de Chile with a Master’s of Science in Human Rights from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Since 2005, he has worked for the Observatorio Ciudadano, a human rights NGO based in Temuco. Since then, he has contributed to the promotion of the rights of indigenous peoples and documenting the most serious violations. Similarly, he has advised indigenous communities throughout the country in defense of their collective rights. He is the editor and co-author of the 2010 book, “Las Implicancias de la Ratificación del Convenio 169 de la OIT en Chile” (English: “The Implications of the Ratification of Convention 169 of the OIT in Chile”) and co-author of the 2011 book,“Las Aguas Indígenas en Chile” (“English: Indigenous Water in Chile”) and the forthcoming 2014 book, “Los Pueblos Indígenas y el Derecho” (English: “Indigenous Peoples and the Law”). He has written scholarly articles concerning indigenous peoples, fundamental rights, and Chilean institutions. In 2010, he was awarded the Rómulo Gallegos Scholarship allowing him to work for a year at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Washington, DC. In 2012, he was also awarded the CONICYT Scholarship in Chile.

Ruth Vargas-Forman, Psychologist, Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and Health, graduate of the University of Salamanca, works in the Treatment Center for Victims of Torture at the University of Health Sciences, Oregon, which provides clinical services to Latin American refugees of different countries and ethnicities. In this context she has developed initiatives to promote culturally appropriate psycho-forensic evaluations.  Teaches Psychology subject Trauma, Resilience and Interculturalism to undergraduate and postgraduate of the University of Oregon. She is a regular contributor to the Magister Legal and Forensic Psychology from the Universidad de la Frontera, where she teaches the course Istanbul Protocol Forensic Assessment Instrument to Violations of Human Rights.

Claudia Molina González, Psychologist from the Universidad de La Frontera. graduated in “Psychosocial performances in Political Violence and Disasters situations” (Community Action Group, School of Mental Health of the Spanish Association of Neuropsychiatry from Universidad Complutense de Madrid). Since 1996 she is working in diagnostic and reparative psychotherapy of children victims of child abuse and sexual abuse, also serving as expert of child sex offenses. From the year 2009 she has worked with various Mapuche communities, organizations and human rights organizations, in documentation, support and national and international reporting of impacts and damage associated with political and social violence, preparing reports to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the Committee on the Elimination of Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Racial Discrimination, as well as national legal authorities.

Renata Sandrini Carreño Lawyer (2013) and graduate of Legal and Social Sciences (2012). Currently studying for a Master’s degree in Law, specializing in public law at the Universidad de Valparaiso. Assistant academic coordinator of the Master’s program for Criminal Law – Substantive and Procedural Aspects at Universidad Central. Has participated in various research projects, such as “Fondecyt Regular 2014 (No. 1140040) Terrorism and Democracy: Basis for the legal concept of terrorism in Chilean criminal law and an examination of core problems in its current regulation,” the project titled “Supporting Basis of the Justice of the Chilean Indigenous Community: Particular reference to the Mapuche Community.” (funded by the Vicerrectoría Académica of the Universidad Central), and “Interdisciplinary Initiative on Gender and Criminal Law: Subprogram Subjects and Social Actors, Domeyko Program (funded by the Vicerrectoría Académica of the Universidad Central).

Pedro Carrasco Salvatierra Graduated from the Faculty of Law of the Univerisdad de Chile. Assistant academic coordinator for the Master’s program of Criminal Law – Substantive and Procedural Aspects at the Universidad Central. Has participated in several research projects, such as “FONDECYT Regular 2011 (No. 1110086) Cultural Pluralism, Native Peoples and Chilean Criminal Law.” Also, participated in a psyco-legal study regarding the Mapuche Community titled “The Psychosocial and Psychological Effects of State Violence in Children, the Elderly, and Women of the Pascual Koña Community” at the Universidad Central (2010) and “Interdisciplinary Initiative in the Mapuche Conflict and Criminal Law,” part of the Domeyko Society Resarch Program (2010). “Investigación Anillos” of Interdisciplinary Studies in Gender and Culture. CONICYT. SOC21/2007. 

Rosario Palma Ayala Graduate of Law from the Universidad Central de Chile. In 2012, she participated in the project “FONDECYT REGULAR No. 1110086 Cultural Pluralism, Native Peoples and Chilean Criminal Law: The Indian Right to Biopolitical Administration. Basis for comprehensive criminal justice reform.” During 2013, she worked as a research assistant in an R&D project titled, “Supporting Basis of the Justice of the Chilean Indigenous Community: Particular reference to the Mapuche Community.” She is a co-author of the article, “Mapuche Women and the Challenges of Intercultural Justice: indigenous application of their respective rights in crimes involving domestic violence,“ which was accepted for publication in the Yearbook on Human Rights (Anuario de Derechos Humanos) from the Universidad de Chile in 2014.