More than 70 organizations and public figures are demanding guarantees that the CDHM (Commission on Human Rights and Minorities) of the lower house of Congress will not be used as a bargaining chip and that its new president will maintain dialogue with civil society and respect minority groups.
The minimum criteria established by the organizations are listed in a public statement submitted yesterday (24th) to all members of Congress ahead of the meeting of party leaders that will define the presidencies of the 21 lower house thematic commissions, scheduled for Thursday (26th).
“Since its creation, in 1995, the CDHM has been the preeminent place within the lower house of Congress for guaranteeing the fundamental rights of vulnerable groups and minorities, whether by listening closely to these groups, by resisting legislative bills aimed at suppressing their rights or by proposing new rights to be recognized,” reads the document.
Click here to read the full statement sent to the members of Congress.
The initiative is intended to avoid a repetition of the situation that occurred in 2013, when the evangelical pastor Marco Feliciano was appointed president. During his mandate, the commission closed its doors to public participation and discussed notably discriminatory proposals – such as Legislative Bill 234/2013, drafted by Congressman João Campos, which authorized the provision of psychological treatment for homosexuality (commonly known as the “gay cure bill”).
In the following year, in 2014, the campaign for the presidency of the CDHM was marked by the independent candidacy of Congressman Jair Bolsonaro, an outspoken critic of human rights. Bolsonaro lost his bid to Congressman Assis do Couto by just two votes.
“We cannot let the Commission be used, once again, as political currency to serve personal and party interests,” said Juana Kweitel, director of Conectas. “This is a privileged space for the discussion of rights in the Legislative. The choice of the presidency needs to be consistent with this responsibility.”
Created in 1995, the CDHM is one of the 21 thematic commissions in the lower house of Congress. Among its duties are to “contribute to the realization of human rights” while “starting from the principle that every human person has basic inalienable rights that must be protected by the State and by the whole international community.”
In practice, the work of the commission consists of receiving, evaluating and investigating claims of human rights violations, discussing and voting on legislation in its area, inspecting and monitoring government programs, collaborating with non-governmental organizations, conducting research and studies on the human rights situation in Brazil and the world, and handling issues related to ethnic and social minorities.