Edmundo Alex Lemun Saavedra and others vs. Chile
Violence against the Mapuche people
Chile

Edmundo Alex Lemun Saavedra was born on May 10, 1985. He lived with his parents and 8 brothers in Requen Lemun, a Mapuche community located in the commune of Ercilla, province of Malleco, in the Araucanía Region. Alex Lemun was a 17 year old high school student, he worked for his community with commitment and solidarity, he used to share community spaces and be part of the activities to fight for the ancestral rights of the Mapuche people. He became so important that the Requen Lemun community changed its name to Alex Lemun after his death.

 

 

On November 7, 2002, a group of 40 Mapuches, including men, women, children and elders, went into the Santa Alicia farm, owned by Forestal Crecex S.A, a branch of Forestal Mininco S.A. to collect firewood to take to their houses, they made fire to cook and to indicate their presence in the occupied territories, activity that they had been doing on a daily basis for a few months.

 

Three police officers (Carabineros) were sent to expel the community members from the area, who were at the moment preparing food when officers approached them and fired tear gas bombs without warning. The women, the children and the elderly escaped to the Community of Aguas Buenas and about 20 young Mapuches with no weapons other than bolas, threw stones at the police officers as they advanced towards the smoke that separated them. The police officers responded by using more tear gas and shooting with riot guns and rubber bullets. The Head Sheriff Marco Aurelio Treuer Heysende, who was in charge of the group of police officers, fired his gun, fatally injuring Alex Lemun in the head. When the other mapuches saw him fall they tried to provide assistance, nevertheless, the police officers continued firing until they finally left the scene without assisting the victim.

 

The members of the Mapuche community were the ones who assisted Alex Lemun and took him in a bullock cart about 100 meters away from the scene, where he was picked up by an ambulance. After being transferred to three different hospitals, and spending five days in a coma, at age 17, Alex Lemun passed away. The preliminary autopsy report indicated that the injury caused by the projectile was fatal and although death was not instantaneous it was inevitable.

 

The case was brought in the ordinary justice system, but a few days after it was opened, it was transferred to the Military Justice, which dismissed the case in 2004. The Head Sheriff Marco Aurelio Treuer, the police officer who fired the shot that took Alex Lemun’s life, only had a disciplinary process in which he was found responsible: he was given one day of punishment.

 

Due to the impunity and inefficiency of the justice, the parents of Alex Lemún took the case to the IACHR, with CEJIL as representatives of the family. The IACHR accepted the case in 2012.