Who will be the ‘terrorist’ of the day?

Senate may vote today on anti-terrorism bill that puts rights defenders and activists at risk

Senate may vote today on anti-terrorism bill that puts rights defenders and activists at risk Senate may vote today on anti-terrorism bill that puts rights defenders and activists at risk

The Senate may vote today on the Lower House Bill (No. 101/15) that establishes the crime of terrorism in Brazil. The proposed legislation, presented by the federal government in June, was approved by the Lower House of Congress just weeks later, without any public debate, by 362 in favor and 85 against.

Civil society organizations and social movements have drawn attention to the setback that the bill represents in the struggle for human rights in Brazil. They also say that it will be ineffective at preventing violence in the country, since all the crimes covered by the new law are already categorized in the Criminal Code.

Why now?

The federal government claims, in its defense, that the bill responds to a recommendation made by FATF (Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing). This organization, which is not part of the United Nations system and whose decisions are not binding, conducted an inspection in Brazil in 2010 and is set to return to the country next year.

Click here to read the recommendations made by FATF.

Its recommendations are based on two UN Security Council resolutions – one of which, from September 2001, shortly after the attack on the Twin Towers in the United States, calls for the criminalization of terrorism.

In a public statement condemning the bill, more than 80 organizations, groups and movements associated with the social struggle in Brazil asserted that “the law on criminal organizations – and all its methods such as plea bargaining and infiltration – already apply to international terrorist organizations whose acts of support, preparation and execution occur or could occur in Brazilian territory”.

Click here to read the statement in full.

Impacts on freedoms and guarantees

The text to be voted in the Senate is full of subjective elements – among them the very concept of terrorism, which will continue to change over the course of history, always accompanying political and economic changes and serving the interests of different power groups.

A technical opinion prepared by the AJD (Association of Judges for Democracy) warns about this serious problem, which has not been resolved by the inclusion of a paragraph in the bill that supposedly protects social movements and organizations.

“The principle of legality (…) requires the criminalized conduct to be perfectly and objectively defined by a prior law, in order that the limits of the punishable conduct are known in advance”, reads the opinion. This, explains the organization, would avoid the “proliferation of criminal offenses with overly open or indeterminate concepts”.

The criticism continues: “Running directly counter to these democratic guarantees is the proposed Anti-Terrorism Law, which establishes criminal offenses carrying extremely harsh sentences that are permeated with erroneous concepts, such as ‘provoking or inducing generalized terror or panic’, obtaining ‘assets, goods or financial resources for the purpose of funding (…) terrorism’, ‘inciting terrorism’, ‘three or more people associating for the purpose of practicing terrorism’”. The AJD went on to say that these conducts are veritable “wild cards at the service of ideological policing and the expansion of the police state”.

Click here to read the technical opinion of the AJD.

This is why rights activists, defenders and movements believe that, if approved, the law will serve as a means to repress protest movements, thereby violating the legitimate right to demonstrate.

Another technical opinion, issued by the Criminal Justice Network, is equally assertive: “[the bill] does not protect any new legal interest and it exposes Brazilian citizens to the criminal censorship of political protest”.

Click here to read the technical opinion of the Criminal Justice Network.

What can you do?

Since the presentation of the bill to Congress, just over three months have passed. Don’t let such an important matter be approved without an appropriate public debate. Pressure the senator from your state or party to take a stand against Bill 101/15. It is already on the agenda of the full session of the house, blocking the discussion of other bills, and could be voted at any time.

See here a list with the Twitter accounts of all the senators that have a profile on the social network.

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