In visit to Brazil, a UN expert calls for the demarcation of indigenous lands and the use of body cameras

UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders expresses concern about the situation of indigenous peoples, quilombolas, black women and victims of police violence

Relatora destaca violência contra defensores de direitos humanos em diferentes partes do Brasil. Foto: ONU
Relatora destaca violência contra defensores de direitos humanos em diferentes partes do Brasil. Foto: ONU

On Friday (19), a UN expert called on Brazil to prioritise land demarcation and titling. According to her, this is “the principal cause of most attacks on human rights defenders”. She also expressed concern over the situation facing people who take action against police violence in Brazil. 

“The human rights defenders who run the greatest risk in Brazil are indigenous people, quilombolas and members of other traditional communities. In many cases the perpetrators of the attacks are known. Nevertheless, impunity for these crimes is still rampant.” Said Mary Lawlor, UN special rapporteur on the situation faced by human rights defenders

Lawlor also highlighted attacks on human rights defenders in urban areas, mainly against black women defenders, journalists, communicators, community lawyers, social workers and people working in the area of culture. “Associating human rights defenders with criminals, something constantly done by local authorities – particularly defenders who are part of social movements and support the most vulnerable in society – is clearly a problem and must end.” Said the expert.

Despite acknowledging the existence of the federal protection program for human rights defenders at risk in the country, the expert stated that it “currently does not fulfil its purpose and needs to be reformed and significantly expanded.”

The federal government recognises human rights defenders and their work and understands the risks they face, the expert noted. However, when human rights defenders challenge the power structures that impose and reinforce injustice, they are violently attacked and face an extremely high level of risk, she said.

The statement from the rapporteur came after an official 10-day visit to the Federal District, Bahia, Pará, São Paulo, and Mato Grosso do Sul. The expert met with authorities, local leaders, and human rights defenders.

Police violence in São Paulo

In one of the recommendations sent to the states, she urged the São Paulo government to “make the use of body cameras by all police forces operating in the state obligatory, to ensure accountability for state violence.” She also called on the state not to criminalise human rights defenders and to create measures to compensate relatives and victims of police violence. The expert also emphasized the importance of ensuring independent forensic investigations in all cases.

Lawlor´s statement comes one month after the governor, Tarcísio de Freitas spoke ironically about a denouncement made at the UN on deaths during Operation Shield. The denouncement was made by Conectas and the Arns Commission. 

Watch again the denouncement made at the UN

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