International

Protesters interrupt UN rights chief speech

Protestors briefly interrupted a speech by new UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet Wednesday, accusing her of complicity in persecution of the indigenous Mapuche community in her native Chile.

Two demonstrators ran onstage as UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet (pictured September 2018) addressed a large crowd at the Universeity of Geneva, waving a banner calling for "Human Rights for Mapuche", the indigenous community in Chile
Two demonstrators ran onstage as UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet (pictured September 2018) addressed a large crowd at the Universeity of Geneva, waving a banner calling for "Human Rights for Mapuche", the indigenous community in Chile (AFP)

Protestors briefly interrupted a speech by new UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet Wednesday, accusing her of complicity in persecution of the indigenous Mapuche community in her native Chile.

Two demonstrators, one wearing traditional dress, ran onto the stage as Bachelet addressed a large crowd at the University of Geneva, waving a banner calling for "Human Rights for Mapuche" and accusing her of "assassinating" them.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who had come to speak about the "dark aspect" of the digital era and the threats new technologies pose to freedoms and rights around the world, insisted the protestors' claims were "not true".

"We have an independent judiciary" in Chile, said the two-time Chilean president who took over as UN rights chief in September, as protestors shouted from the back and waved a banner stating: "Today High Commissioner, Yesterday Guilty".

The Chilean state has long been accused of discrimination against the Mapuche people, who centuries ago controlled vast areas of Chile but have since been marginalised.

Last year when she was still Chile's president, Bachelet apologised on behalf of the nation to the Mapuche for the "horrors" of post-colonial abuse they suffered.

Considered the earliest inhabitants of parts of Chile, the Mapuche fought against the Spanish conquerors and later the Chilean army after the country's independence in the 19th century.

Their numbers were reduced to only 700,000, a fraction of Chile's current population of 17 million.

Mapuche land rights campaigners have also been jailed under a terrorism law dating to Chile's 1973-1990 dictatorship.