March 27, 2012
São Paulo/Brasília – The foreign policy on human rights of the government of President Dilma Rousseff has been marked since she took office, a year and three months ago, by a persistent ambiguity. The most visible effects have been the disrespect for the Inter-American Human Rights System of the Organization of American States (OAS) and the hesitant positions taken in the United Nations, for example, in relation to the violence committed in Syria, Iran and Burma (Myanmar). Furthermore, in this period, Brazil has not adopted any important international instruments, such as the UN Convention that guarantees the rights of migrant workers and the optional protocol that would permit complaints to be submitted to the UN by Brazilian citizens on violations of economic, social and cultural rights.
These and other considerations will be presented on Thursday (March 29), at 9 am, in the public hearing to be held by the Human Rights Commission of the Senate titled “Brazilian Foreign Policy: overview of 2011 and priorities for 2012”, with the presence of representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Relations, the Office of Human Rights and the Office of the Secretary-General of the Presidency. The hearing has the support of the Brazilian Human Rights and Foreign Policy Committee (CBDHPE), on which Conectas currently serves as Executive Secretary.
Representatives of CBDHPE will also serve on the board at the public hearing and propose a review of the first year of the president’s foreign policy, based on the “Commitments of the Brazilian Presidential Candidates” – a document that lists a minimum agenda of 10 human rights commitments, which was endorsed by Dilma Rousseff during her campaign in 2010.
“In addition to signing the document, Rousseff, upon taking office, made statements indicating that human rights would play a central role in her foreign policy, asserting that they would not be “negotiable” in Brazil’s international relations. One year and three months later, we can see that these words have transformed into a hesitant position, which includes inconsistencies, such as the country’s positions on human rights in Iran; the option for silence, such as the visit to Cuba; or tentative positions, such as the case of Syria,” said Lucia Nader, executive director of Conectas Human Rights.
One of the most troubling cases involves the positions that the Brazilian government, under the Rousseff administration, has taken in the OAS. The most harmful effect of this has been the disrespect for the Inter-American Human Rights System, in particular after the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issued precautionary measures on the construction of the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam, which were strongly rejected by the government.
In the UN, although Brazil supported the resolution in the Human Rights Council that created the special rapporteur to investigate human rights violations in Iran in March 2011, it later abstained in the General Assembly vote condemning the violations detected in the country. This occurred even after Rousseff, when she was president-elect, had criticized the abstention by the Lula da Silva government in December 2010, exposing the inconsistency between rhetoric and action.
On Syria, the Rousseff government voted in favor of the resolution that condemned the violations being committed in the country, both in the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly. However, when the Security Council proposed actions without the use of force, Brazil abstained once again. On Burma (Myanmar), meanwhile, the government voted to investigate human rights crimes when the matter was in the Human Rights Council, but abstained in the General Assembly.
Conectas also regrets the fact that Rousseff has made no progress on transparency or on the creation of channels for social participation in foreign policy. “We hope that the entry into force, in May this year, of the Freedom of Information Law will serve as an incentive for the Ministry of Foreign Relations to become less opaque and for foreign policy to resemble other public policies that, under the rule of law, must observe principles of transparency and democratic control”, concluded Lucia Nader.