Supreme Court requires government to present immediate plan to combat pandemic in quilombola communities

Court also orders the suspension of land repossessions for the duration of the health crisis

By 9 votes to 2, the Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday, February 23, to require the federal government to present, within a time frame of 30 days, a national plan to combat the pandemic among the quilombola population.

The ruling was given in the ADPF Case (Allegation of Violation of a Fundamental Precept) No. 742, filed by Conaq (National Coordination of Black Rural Quilombola Communities) in partnership with the political parties PSB, PSOL, PCdoB, Rede Sustentabilidade and PT.

According to the vote by Justice Edson Fachin, the Court also ordered the suspension of territorial rights cases in quilombos, such as land repossession cases.

“Maintaining the passage of these cases, with the risk of ordering land repossessions, exacerbates the situation facing quilombola communities, which can suddenly find themselves neglected, without basic hygiene conditions and unable to isolate properly to minimize the risks of infection by coronavirus,” said Justice Edson Fachin in his vote.

Justices Alexandre de Moraes, Dias Toffoli, Cármen Lúcia, Luís Roberto Barroso, Rosa Weber, Gilmar Mendes, Ricardo Lewandowski and the president of the Court, Justice Luiz Fux, all voted in line with Justice Fachin’s interpretation on the suspension of these cases.

The local organizations Conectas Human Rights, ISA (Socioenvironmental Institute), Educafro, Human Rights Clinic of UERJ (Rio de Janeiro State University), Terra de Direitos, IARA (Racial and Environmental Advocacy Institute) and the National Federation of Quilombola Associations, together with the Federal Public Defender’s Office, also participated in the judgment as amici curiae (friends of the court).

“Although the judgment was overdue, the Supreme Court has taken an important step in guaranteeing the rights of the most vulnerable populations, such as quilombola communities, which have been excluded and completely neglected by the federal government since the start of the health crisis,” said Julia Neiva, the representative of Conectas in the case.

Lack of data 

Given the lack of data on people affected by the pandemic in the more than 5,000 quilombos in the country, Conaq launched, in partnership with ISA, the Quilombo Without Covid-19 platform. According to research by the organizations, nearly 5,000 cases have been recorded in quilombola communities and there have been more than 200 deaths.

This Tuesday’s ruling by the Supreme Court also requires the federal government to include data on race and ethnicity in the records of the pandemic.

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