NGOs denounce at UN conviction of 23 protestors from 2013 and 2014

In a letter, organisations call attention to the criminalisation of the right to protest.

Launch of the campaign “It’s not just about the 23, it’s about all those who fight”, at UFRJ, in Rio de Janeiro. Photo: Bruna Freire/Ponte Launch of the campaign “It’s not just about the 23, it’s about all those who fight”, at UFRJ, in Rio de Janeiro. Photo: Bruna Freire/Ponte

Civil society organisations sent a message to the UN on Thursday 2 August, denouncing the conviction of 23 activists who were at protests in 2013 and 2014. These cases will be discussed on Friday 3 August, at a press conference in São Paulo. The defendants and their families will be present.

In a letter sent to the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, Clement Voule, Conectas, Article 19, Justiça Global and Mariana  Criola Centre for Grassroots Legal Aid stress that the accusations brought against the protestors “configure an attempt to criminalise the right to protest”.

The organisations are urging the United Nations to issue a public statement on the case and to put pressure on the Brazilian government to overturn the decision.

“The process, as a whole, represents a grave violation of the right of peaceful assembly and association. Some elements, however, are overwhelming: in different instances, political affiliation was the sole base for charges of criminal association; pre-trial detention was justified by attendance to a peaceful assembly; all of the 23 defendants had their penalties raised to the legal maximum due to participating in protests (which, by the judge’s own words, means they have ‘’distorted personalities’’), among others.”. An excerpt from the letter.

The organisations also criticise disregard for the arguments presented by defence lawyers, the use of undercover police officers’ testimonies as one of the main evidences and stress that the defendants have already been punished:

“ (…) all 23 defendants were arrested, initially for 5 days, (and later convicted) with no concrete evidence to support their involvement in any criminal offenses. The judge also ordered pre-trial detention of three of the defendants for participating in a peaceful assembly (something they had been prohibited to do for the duration of the criminal proceedings). One of the defendants was imprisoned for 07 months in a maximum security facility.”


On 17 July the Rio de Janeiro Court of Justice convicted 20 protestors, in a single sentence, to seven years in prison and another three, who are minors, to five years and ten months. They are accused of crimes involving forming criminal organisations, corruption of minors, bodily harm and possession of explosives.

On the 24th, a campaign was launched called “It’s not just about the 23, it’s about all those who fight,” supporting activists.

Press Conference

On Friday 3 August a press conference is being held to discuss the arbitrary acts committed in the conviction process. The event is open to the public and starts at 10am at the Ateliê do Bexiga (R. Conselheiro Ramalho, 945).

  •  Read the full letter here 

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