Organizations denounce “physical and institutional attack” on indigenous peoples to the UN

Indigenous representative warns countries about proposed legislation to legalize grabbing of public lands and predatory exploration and to end the demarcation of indigenous territories

Mulheres indígenas realizam marcha em Brasília entre 7 e 11 de setembro. (foto: Cicero Bezerra / Apib) Mulheres indígenas realizam marcha em Brasília entre 7 e 11 de setembro. (foto: Cicero Bezerra / Apib)

This Wednesday, September 29, civil society organizations denounced in the UN a policy of environmental dismantling that is in progress in Brazil. Four Brazilian organizations warned the international community about a series of bills that are currently pending in the National Congress and that are intended to further weaken mechanisms for protecting the environment and indigenous peoples. 

Under attack and facing serious violations of human and socio-environmental rights, the complaint portrays a Brazil very different from the one described in President Jair Bolsonaro’s speech at the opening of the United Nations General Assembly. 

“Once again, the indigenous peoples of Brazil are drawing attention to the serious human and socio-environmental rights situation that we are facing. As pointed out by High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet, indigenous peoples are under physical and institutional attack in Brazil,” they said. 

Among the bills identified by the organizations are the ‘Land Grabbing Bill’, Bill 490, which obstructs the demarcation of indigenous lands, and the bill to make environmental licensing more flexible

The complaint was made during the Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva (Switzerland). The document is signed by the organizations APIB (Association of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil), Conectas Human Rights, ISA (Socioenvironmental Institute) and Climate Observatory. The indigenous representative and APIB lawyer, Samara Pataxó, was the group’s spokesperson at the United Nations. 

“All these bills aggravate the rural violence, especially in the Amazon, and encourage deforestation in the midst of a climate crisis,” warned the organizations, in reference to the speech of the UN Secretary-General António Guterres. “Furthermore, they are proceeding without free, prior and informed consultation and consent, without broad debate with society and without the participation of the scientific community, only to serve the interest of rural groups,” they explained.

Bills in Congress

The complaint refers to five bills that are pending in the National Congress. In the Federal Senate are the Bill of the General Environmental Licensing Law (2,159/2021) and the Land Grabbing Bill, which the organizations also call the “Bill to steal public land” (Bill 2,633/2020). In the Lower House are Bill 490/2007, which puts a stop to the demarcation of indigenous lands and enables predatory activities in these territories, and a bill that permits mining on Indigenous Lands (Bill 191/2020), drafted by the Executive. There is also the Legislative Decree Bill No. 177/2021 that would authorize the President to withdraw Brazil from ILO Convention 169. If it is approved, this bill will exempt Brazil from complying with one of the leading international frameworks for protecting the rights of indigenous, quilombola and traditional communities.

The organizations are asking the president of the Senate, Rodrigo Pacheco, and the speaker of the Lower House, Arthur Lira, to prevent the progress of the bills and to “act to protect the climate, the environment and to guarantee the rights of indigenous peoples and traditional communities in Brazil”.

See the complaint made to the UN Human Rights Council in full:

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