Supreme Court to judge protection guarantees for quilombola communities during pandemic

The judgment that starts on Friday requires the federal government to present a plan to combat Covid-19 in these communities

The Supreme Court will begin on Friday, February 12, its judgment of ADPF Case (Allegation of Violation of a Fundamental Precept) No. 742, which requires a series of urgent measures from the federal government to combat the effects of the coronavirus pandemic in quilombola communities.

The case was filed by CONAQ (National Coordination of Black Rural Quilombola Communities), together with the political parties PSB, PSOL, PCdoB, Rede Sustentabilidade and PT, and has been awaiting judgment since September 2020, when it was proposed.

The petitioners are asking the Supreme Court to order the federal government to prepare and implement, within a maximum of 30 days and in an interdisciplinary manner, a National Plan to Combat the Effects of the Covid-19 Pandemic in quilombola communities.

The plan should include, among other provisions, the supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), drinking water and hygiene materials, and the development of emergency food and nutritional security measures, such as the distribution of food staples, and logistical measures, in order to facilitate regular access to health services.

They are also requesting the inclusion of race/color/ethnicity data in the records of Covid-19 cases, ensuring the compulsory notification of confirmed cases in quilombola communities, the public availability of the data and the suspension of any actions that threaten the territorial rights of these communities, among other measures.

Supreme Court

Given the worsening of the health crisis and the lack of a ruling from the Supreme Court even on the precautionary measures contained in the case, an amendment to the initial request was submitted in December 2020 for the purpose of including quilombola communities in the group to receive priority vaccinations, for inclusion in the first stage of the vaccination campaign.

The Attorney General’s Office has already declared the ADPF case inadmissible and the Office of the Prosecutor-General has recommended partial compliance with the precautionary measures, without having analyzed the merit of the case.

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, are also participating in the judgment as amici curiae (friends of the court).

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. To date, the system has recorded nearly 5,000 cases of the disease in quilombola communities.

According to the IBGE statistics institute, there are currently 5,972 quilombos in 1,674 municipalities in Brazil.

The organizations Conectas and ISA, in their arguments presented as amici curiae in the case, note that “when associated with the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, the lack of information and policies for quilombola communities exacerbates the problems they already face and undermines their way of life”.

“This suppression is another example of how structural racism works in Brazilian society, capable of silencing even the ethnic and racial breakdown of the cases and deaths recorded during a global health crisis,” said Julia Neiva, coordinator of the Development and Socioenvironmental Rights program at Conectas.

International recommendations

The organizations also present several international recommendations from the UN and the Inter-American Commission, among others, that draw attention to the importance of protecting the territories of vulnerable ethnic and racial groups, such as quilombola communities.

One key recommendation is the pressing need to suspend evictions and land repossessions during the pandemic, as this places these communities in a state of even greater vulnerability and risk of deteriorating health and living standards.

As such, the organizations are requesting the adoption of measures such as the immediate suspension of land repossessions and the guarantee of autonomous solutions for community social isolation, such as so-called health barriers, to protect them by preventing contact with people outside their communities.

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