EXTRAORDINARY! Commission on Human Rights and Minorities

April 25, 2013 – Praça Rosa square (formerly Praça Roosevelt) – São Paulo


April 23, 2013

São Paulo will stage this Thursday, April 25, at 7 p.m., at Praça Rosa (formerly Praça Roosevelt), the First Session of the EXTRAORDINARY! Commission on Human Rights and Minorities.

The session – to be broadcast live on #PosTV – will be attended by the cartoonist Laerte and the federal congressman Jean Wyllys, in addition to other members of Congress, artists, activists and academics who have been confirming their presence and joining the ranks of those who oppose the current state of the Commission on Human Rights and Minorities (CDHM) of the lower house of Congress, now that it is presided over by the congressman and evangelical pastor Marco Feliciano.

On the agenda are some of the pastor’s “forbidden topics”, such as same-sex civil unions, regulation of sex professionals and abortion, not to mention the current deadlock on the commission. The session will serve to contrast with the official meeting of the CDHM – reflecting the agenda but producing a different quality of debate. While the session in Brasília, on Wednesday, will probably be closed to the public, by order of Feliciano, the session in São Paulo, on the following day, may be attended by anyone who is interested.

Besides being an act of defiance against Feliciano, the EXTRAORDINARY! Commission is an affirmation of today’s threatened values, such as tolerance, diversity, companionship, dialogue, inclusion and the construction of public policies that are underpinned by the principles of a secular State, as determined by the Brazilian Constitution.

Just like in the formal commissions in Brasília, this session will also have a panel formed by members of Congress, activists and artists. The public will also have the right to speak, by registering in advance at the event itself.

The Session of the EXTRAORDINARY! Commission is being organized by a group of individuals and organizations that for months has been mobilizing around the movement “Existe Amor em SP” (There’s Love in São Paulo), with the participation of the Pedra no Sapato (Thorn in The Side) group and Conectas – an international human rights organization founded in São Paulo, in September 2001, that has consultative status with the UN Human Rights Council and observer status with the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights.

“Given this situation in the Commission on Human Rights and Minorities, we have gone back to a time when our nation was being ‘undercut by sinister transactions’, in the words of the singer Chico Buarque, in reference to Brazil’s military dictatorship. We, members of Congress, are taking our struggle for the dignity of minorities to other venues in the lower house of Congress, namely the recently created special sub-commission of the Culture Commission, to address the issues related to Culture, Human Rights and Minorities. Society also needs to participate in this movement. We need to occupy all the places we can to expose the incidents that are undermining social justice and the secular nature of the State. This event by Conectas Human Rights and the “Existe Amor em SP” group is extremely significant for this reason,” said Congressman Jean Wyllys.

“The Commission on Human Rights and Minorities of the lower house of Congress has, for nearly 50 days now, been in the hands of one of Brazil’s most regressive, burlesque and caricature politicians, despite the almost unanimous opposition of the Brazilian population. In reality, however, Congressman Feliciano only has the chamber of Commission, the title of president and the spotlight of the media. The heart is in the streets. Minorities are active. Human rights are in this square right now. Here, we want to make sure that the breakthroughs in the field of human rights are not set back even a millimeter; we want to show that the people can think, debate and build bridges between their differences, making progress towards a country that is more inclusive, tolerant, diverse and united. Feliciano himself is the setback,” said João Paulo Charleaux, communication coordinator at Conectas.

On the morning of the 1st Session of the EXTRAORDINARY! Commission, cartoonists from the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper published a series of cartoons featuring kisses.

Learn more about the CDHM

Creation: The Commission on Human Rights and Minorities was created in 1995, during Brazil’s democratization process that began in 1985, when institutions were starting to become more pervious and sensitive to human rights. This trend was intensified following Brazil’s participation in the UN Conference on Human Rights in Vienna (1993).

Composition: The CDHM is one of the 20 permanent commissions of Brazil’s lower house of Congress. It serves as a technical body comprised of 18 members of Congress and an equal number of alternates, supported by a group of advisers and administrative staff.
The CDHM has one sub-commission: Congressional Commission on Memory, Truth and Justice;

Duties: It can suggest measures to prevent and investigate the main human rights violations, in addition public policies overall. As such, the CDHM performs a dual purpose as a human rights ombudsman and legislator.

Its constitutional and regulatory duties are to:

Receive, evaluate and investigate claims of human rights violations;
Discuss and vote on legislation in its area;

Inspect and monitor the government programs in its area;

Collaborate with non-governmental organizations;

Conduct research and studies on the human rights situation in Brazil and the world, including for the purpose of public disclosure and as insight for the house’s other commissions;

Handle issues related to ethnic and social minorities, particularly indigenous communities, and the preservation and protection of the country’s grassroots and ethnic cultures.

Note: the decision-making powers of the commission on legislative proposals were granted early in 2004, following alterations to the house’s internal regulations. This meant it could, just like the other commissions, present reports on the merits of bills pending in the house.

Objectives: The main objective of the CDHM is to contribute to the realization of human rights. These rights are enshrined in important human rights documents and declarations that have been developed over time, such as, in the UN, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and, in the OAS, the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man (1948).

Breakthroughs: Examples of public policies on human rights suggested by the CDHM to the federal government include the proposal to create the Federal Witness Protection Program, the development of the National Human Rights Plan II, the bill establishing procedures for the execution of socio-educational rehabilitation measures, and proposals for programs to protect human rights defenders, combat sexual exploration of children and adolescents, combat the practice of torture, reform psychiatric care, establish rules for psychiatric institutes, protect personal data and combat death squads.

Congressman Domigos Dutra, in his final speech as president of the CDHM, looked back at the commission’s achievements in 2012: Constitutional Amendment Proposal on Slave Labor; Creation of the Congressional Sub-Commission on Memory, Truth and Justice; Symbolic reinstatement of the mandates of Congress members revoked during the military dictatorship; Restoration of the revoked licenses of lawyers persecuted during the dictatorship; Assessment of the dictatorship’s impact on indigenous communities; Return of native lands to the Pataxós Indians; Inquiry into emergency hospitals; Inquiry into prisons; Humanization of the prison system.
2013: Pastor Congressman Marco Feliciano assumes Presidency

Changes to the agenda

Press # 2 - The president of the Congressional Commission on Human Rights, Pastor Marco Feliciano, has removed from the agenda of the meeting this Wednesday (March 13) controversial projects that involve homosexual relations and racism.

The commission’s new agenda was published on Tuesday evening, and consists primarily of votes on requests for the realization of public hearings. Most of the requests to be put to the vote at this Wednesday’s meeting were filed by Feliciano himself.

One of the requests of the pastor is an appeal to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs “for the Brazilian Embassy in Bolivia to intervene in defense of the Brazilian soccer fans being detained in that country”.
Feliciano also included on the agenda a request for the realization of public hearings to debate “the conditions of street people” and “the sexual exploitation of children and adolescents”.

Press # 1 - The new president of the Congressional Human Rights Commission, Congressman Marco Feliciano, is the subject of two cases in the Supreme Court: one inquiry accusing him of homophobia and one lawsuit charging him with larceny.

Read more:
Human rights are not negotiable
Conectas fears for the future of the Congressional Commission on Human Rights under the presidency of Pastor Marco Feliciano

Nearly 50 organizations call for Dilma Rousseff to take public position on appointment of Marco Feliciano
In a letter, Conectas and partners point out that the federal government has been silent