Conectas Public Statement 1/2011
São Paulo, April 15, 2011
Conectas deeply regrets the attitude of the Brazilian government, in qualifying the recent precautionary measures requested by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in favor of the indigenous communities of the Xingu Basin as “precipitated and unjustifiable” (Press Release No. 142 – Ministry of Foreign Relations – April 5, 2011).
The IACHR has requested that the Brazilian authorities immediately suspend the environmental licensing process for the Belo Monte Hydroelectric Power Plant project and stop any construction work from moving forward until the following minimum conditions are met:
(1) conduct consultation processes, in fulfillment of its international obligations – meaning prior consultations that are free, informed, of good faith, culturally appropriate and with the aim of reaching an agreement – in relation to each of the affected indigenous communities that are beneficiaries of these precautionary measures;
(2) guarantee that, in order for this to be an informed consultation process, the indigenous communities have access beforehand to the project's Social and Environmental Impact Study, in an accessible format, including translation into the respective indigenous languages;
(3) adopt measures to protect the life and physical integrity of the members of the indigenous groups living in voluntary isolation in the Xingu Basin, and to prevent the spread of diseases and epidemics among the indigenous communities being granted the precautionary measures as a consequence of the construction of the Belo Monte hydropower plant. This includes any diseases derived from the massive influx of people into the region as well as the exacerbation of the vectors of transmission of water-borne diseases such as malaria.
In accordance with the new IACHR regulations (which came into force on December 31, 2009) the commission has the authority to request precautionary measures to avoid irreparable damages, even independently of the case system. Furthermore, the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) in 2006 urged Member-States to follow up on the recommendations of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, including its precautionary measures.
Even more alarming is the news that Brazil has withdrawn the candidacy of the former Human Rights Minister Paulo Vannuchi for a seat on the IACHR as a result of these precautionary measures (Estado news agency, Brazil withdraws candidacy of Vannuchi for OAS vacancy, April 12, 2011, 8:53 pm).
The Brazilian government appears to be unaware, given its attitude, of the importance of the regional human rights system and its obligations to this system. It also seems unaware, by invoking the principle of subsidiarity of international protection, that this principle is not absolute, there being exceptions, especially in virtue of the urgency and the danger of irreparable damage.
Learn more about the OAS decision in Portuguese. Click here.
Read the press release of the Ministry of Foreign Relations (in Portuguese).