Committee on human rights reports on an increasingly dangerous environment for HRDs


As reported on the Monitor and documented by Comitê Brasileiro de Defensoras e Defensores de Direitos Humanos (Brazilian Committee for Human Rights Defenders), the environment for human rights defenders (HRDs) and activists in Brazil is becoming increasingly dangerous. In September 2017, the Committee sent a report to the United Nations and the Organization of American States (OAS) with details of the violence against HRDs and a request to the Brazilian government to protect HRDs. On 2nd October, during a meeting with Michel Frost, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Right Defenders, the Committee also requested that the Frost plan a special mission to Brazil, with Committee representative, Maria Mello, stating that:

“We think that your [Frost's] presence in Brazil as soon as possible is fundamental. From civil society, we are going to do everything to guarantee that the official visit takes place”.
Serious concern over indigenous communities' rights

During the 165th session of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in Montevideo in October 2017, Brazilian civil society organisations presented information to the IACHR on the human rights situation in the country, including on the right of access to land of the Afro-descendant Quilombo people in Brazil. National Coordenação de Articulação das Comunidades Negras Rurais Quilombolas (Conaq/National Coordination for Articulation of Black Rural Quilombolas Communities) expressed concern that "people are still suffering from the wounds of slavery, which has not ended yet. The State has a strict plan for agribusiness, but not for the ownership of Quilombola areas".

The Special Rapporteur for Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights of the IACHR, Soledad Garcia Muñoz, highlighted the relationship between the high number of murdered Quilombola community leaders and questioned how the government intends to take action and stop the escalating number of murders. Muñoz also highlighted the importance of reinstating the Brazilian Programme for Protection of Human Rights Defenders.

Criminalising political organisations

In a separate incident, organisations reported that a process of criminalisation of leftist political organisations is underway. On 25th October 2017, Rio Grande do Sul region's police carried out an operation against anarchist activists accused by the state of alleged attacks such as "police cars, banks, public buildings, car dealers, delegations and headquarters of political parties".

Federação Anarquista Gaúcha (Gaucha Anarchist Federation) announced that its former public headquarters were invaded by the police who seized computers, telephones and other belongings. In addition, other political-cultural venues were also visited by the police.The Federation believes that these actions are part of an orchestrated attack by the civil police of Rio Grande do Sul called "Operação Érebo", which aims to create precedents that will place anarchist ideology within the Anti-terrorism Law.

In a positive development, the Federal Senate has opened a public consultation for a bill that will punish discrimination based on sexual orientation or sexual identity.  

Peaceful Assembly

Human rights activists denounced the coordinated actions by all three branches of government seeking to undermine the right to peaceful  protest. On 14th October 2017, this issue was debated at a public hearing in the Participatory Legislation Commission of the Chamber of Deputies. The coordinator of the Legal Reference Centre on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information, Camila Marques, affirmed that "continuous and systematic" action of criminalisation of social movements is underway, citing legislation proposed by the government that would be detrimental for the full enjoyment of the right to peaceful assembly and which was also reported previously on the Monitor. 

In the city of Rio de Janeiro on 24th October 2017, a protest organised by artists, social movements and political parties against President Michel Temer was repressed by the police. The protesters marched down main avenues in the centre of Rio de Janeiro and at a certain point, the nearly 1,500 demonstrators were disrupted by police officers who threw tear gas canisters and used pepper spray against activists that tried to place a banner reading "Fora, Temer!"(Temer Leave!) on the stairs of the Municipal Chamber.

Worker-led movements and mobilisations

On 16th October 2017, Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (Movement of Landless Rural Workers) began a national action in defence of the agrarian reform, mobilising thousands of landless families throughout the country. On 17th October, during the occupation of the Ministry of Planning in Brasília, the national Movement leader Marina Ricardo Nunes explained that the demonstrations sought to put pressure on the federal government to provide more resources for agrarian reform.

Workers marched through the streets of San Pablo claiming their right to housing. In the action organised by Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem Teto (Homeless Workers' Movement), thousands of people participated in peaceful demonstrations. Women, men, including elderly persons and children, traveled about 23 kilometres to protest. According to the organisers, it was the most successful and most widely-attended march in the last ten years.


Complete impunity in cases of murdered journalists

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists' (CPJ) 2017 Global Impunity Index, Brazil is within the top ten countries where journalists are  killed with complete impunity. Brazil ranks as the second country in Latin America with the most journalists murdered. According to CPJ in Brazil,

"No one has been sentenced for a journalist's murder since 2015".

On 27th October 2017, the eight entities within Comissão Permanente de Direito à Comunicação e Liberdade de Expressão (Permanent Commission on the Right to Communication and Freedom of Expression), under the umbrella of Conselho Nacional de Direitos Humanos,(National Human Rights Council), issued a public statement expressing their concern over the cancellation of the public hearing on violence against journalists that was to take place on 23rd October in Brasilia. The event had to be cancelled because the Human Rights Ministry did not send the tickets on time to the organisations that had been invited to participate. The organisations claimed that the delay in sending the tickets represents a lack of interest in a topic considered very important to press freedom and expression.

Censorship during electoral periods

Recently, the Senate amended the electoral legislation to allow candidates and political parties to request internet service providers to remove content they deem offensive during the electoral period without a judicial decision. La Associação Brasileira de Emissoras de Rádio e Televisão (Brazilian Association of Radio and Television Broadcasters), Associação Nacional de Editores de Revistas (Brazilian Association of Magazine Publishers) and Associação Nacional de Jornais (National Association of Newspapers) declared that the new regulation amounts to censorship. It was reported that the president announced he will veto the bill.