In an unprecedented move, UN to assess the practice of enforced disappearance in Brazil

A committee is to discuss what the Brazilian government has done to investigate and prevent cases of enforced disappearance, like the Crimes of May and the case of Amarildo

Dona Débora, leader of the Mothers of May Movement, in an interview with Conectas
on the Crimes of May. (Photo: João Paulo Brito/Conectas) Dona Débora, leader of the Mothers of May Movement, in an interview with Conectas on the Crimes of May. (Photo: João Paulo Brito/Conectas)

From Monday (13) the UN will be assessing how the Brazilian government has acted regarding the investigation and prevention of cases of enforced disappearance in the country. The discussions will continue in Geneva over the following week, within the framework of the United Nations Committee on Enforced Disappearances, the organ that monitors the implementation of the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearances of which Brazil has been a signatory since 2007. 

This is the first time the country has been assessed by the Committee. In recent years, civil society organisations have sent the United Nations their principal concerns on the matter, like the lack of investigation and accountability for disappearances and the failure to classify this practice as a crime. Emblematic unresolved episodes have also been cited, like the Crimes of May, in São Paulo, the case of Amarildo de Souza and the Acari massacre, in Rio de Janeiro and the case of Davi Fiúza, in Bahia. Throughout this period the Brazilian state has sent status reports on its compliance with the International Convention, although much of this information has been contested in civil society bulletins.

“This is the first time the UN has considered Brazil´s actions to tackle this extremely serious form of institutional violence, reports of which remain unaccounted for.” Said Gabriel Sampaio, coordinator of the Conectas programme Tackling Institutional Violence. “We hope the government will take concrete steps for the reparation of victims and their families and that they set up structural measures to restrain the officers involved in cases of enforced disappearance and hold them responsible”, he concludes.

Those participating in the dialogue include experts on the Committee and representatives of the Brazilian government, as well as the following organisations: CEJIL (Centre for Justice and International Law), CESeC (Centre for the Study of Security and Citizenship), May Mothers Movement, MNDH (National Human Rights Movement), IBAHRI (International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute) and Conectas, who will contribute as an organ.

According to data from the Brazilian Forum for Public Security, by the end of 2019, Brazil had a total of 79,839 disappeared people. This figure does not reflect just the number of cases of enforced disappearance as the country does not even recognise this practice as a crime, making it unviable to keep track of cases.

Cases at the IACHR

In May 2021, 15 years after the Crimes of May, the São Paulo Public Defender´s Office, the May Mothers Movement and Conectas Human Rights sent a petition to the IACHR (Inter-American Commission on Human Rights) calling for the Brazilian government to be questioned about cases of enforced disappearance during the massacre that left 500 people dead and during which a number of others disappeared.

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