March 8, 2012
São Paulo/Geneva — Conectas will make an “oral statement” tomorrow (March 9) in the main plenary of the 19th Session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, demonstrating the contrasts and contradictions between the Brazil that is viewed as the world’s sixth largest economy and the Brazil that contends with medieval practices such as torture and overcrowding in the prison system, criminalization of poverty and disrespect for indigenous peoples.
“This is bad news, but it is true and it needs to be exposed to the world, with rigor and a constructive spirit,” said Juana Kweitel, Program Director at Conectas. “The Brazil of the World Cup and the Olympics is the same place where one fifth of the prison population is illegally detained, where torture, mistreatment and overcrowding exist in prisons, where poverty is criminalized and where development projects devastate the lives of indigenous peoples.”
The statement to be made by Conectas – which has held consultative status in the United Nations since 2006 – shall be divided into three main blocks:
The first addresses the policy of mass incarceration in Brazil, a country where the prison population now exceeds half a million people, where there are shortfalls in the defense of pretrial detainees, where prisons are overcrowded and where inmates are systematically tortured and mistreated. On this matter, Conectas is also calling on Brazil to establish an independent national mechanism to prevent torture, pending since 2008 when the country ratified the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention Against Torture – which permits independent monitoring of places where torture may occur. Conectas has also requested the publication of the report containing the UN recommendations to Brazil on this subject (read more).
Another issue to be addressed is the criminalization of poverty in large urban centers, epitomized by the excessive use of force by the police. Examples include the police abuse in the neighborhood of São Paulo known as “Cracolândia” and in the settlement known as Pinheirinho, in the municipality of São José dos Campos. In both instances, Conectas has exposed – besides the excessive use of force – cases of cruel and inhumane treatment, violations of the right of locomotion and a lack of access to adequate health and housing services. In the case of Cracolândia, the organization sent an Urgent Appeal in January to the UN Rapporteurs on Health, Housing and Torture and Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment (read more).
The final topic will address the adoption of a development model that violates the rights of vulnerable communities, such as the case involving the Belo Monte Dam, to be the world’s third largest hydroelectric power plant whose construction threatens to irredeemably impact the life of 24 indigenous groups. On this subject, Conectas will remind the council that Brazil has already ignored the measures requested by the human rights mechanisms of the Organization of American States (OAS), which in April 2011 requested that work on the dam be halted until prior consultations were made with the affected communities.
Article updated at 3 pm on March 9, 2012
Watch below the oral statement made by the Brazilian delegation on the topics raised by Conectas in Geneva.
New update, at 3 pm on March 12, 2012
Brazil exercised on Friday (March 9, 2012) its right to respond to the oral statement given by Conectas in the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. The diplomat Ciro Leal stated that progress needs to be recognized and that the country is always open to debate challenges. In its statement, Conectas acknowledged the progress that has been made against poverty, but emphasized the enormous challenges in access to basic rights such as education, health and housing. The Brazilian delegation also pointed out that President Dilma Rousseff sent Congress last year Bill 2442/2011, which creates the National Mechanism for the Prevention of Torture. Conectas is monitoring the passage of this bill which, as it is currently worded, may not guarantee the autonomy and independence of the mechanism.
Watch the response of the Brazilian government.