Life is getting more dangerous for Brazilian human rights defenders

BY
human rights amnesty international indigenous rights brazil

Human rights: Indigenous group protests in front of Congress asking. Photo: Wilson Dias/ABr

A new report on the dangers facing human rights defenders has warned that Brazilians are facing an increasingly dire situation. The report from Amnesty International, released today, shows that 2017 is on track to claim the lives of even more human rights defenders in Brazil than last year, when one defender was murdered approximately every five days.

“In the Americas, Brazil is the country with the highest number of human rights defenders murdered annually, and numbers are increasing every year,” Amnesty’s research and policy coordinator Renata Neder said in a statement. In particular, the international advocacy group is concerned by national efforts to destabilize protective programs for defenders, as well as the lack of investigation into threats and attacks.

During the first eight months of 2017, 58 human rights defenders were killed in Brazil. It means that this year’s total number could be far higher than last year’s, when the total death toll was 66. Amnesty says that the rising toll makes “the country one of the most dangerous in the world for human rights defenders”.

But the report’s statistics do not necessarily demonstrate the true scale of difficulties faced by human rights defenders, according to NGO Front Line Defenders. While the organization recorded a concrete 281 murders of human rights defenders across the world during 2016, it estimates the actual numbers to be much higher, owing to forced disappearances and inaccurate classifications of murders.

Brazil’s situation is in line with regional and global patterns, as those defending environmental causes and land rights are increasingly likely to become victims. In 2016, these activists made up nearly half of all cases worldwide, and have been the main victims of violence in Brazil this year. In many cases, these issues overlap with indigenous and Afro-descendant communities: NGO Pastoral Land Commission says that at least 200 community leaders received death threats related land disputes in 2016.

Research from Global Witness, an NGO that exposes the relationship between environmental destruction, corruption, conflict, and demand for natural resources, has found that such issues divide communities and create circumstances that lead to escalating violence. Consequently, for every community where human rights defenders are killed, dozens of others are threatened or attacked. This is already happening in Brazil’s quilombos.

Brazil’s human rights defenders aren’t the only ones facing trouble, however. This year is also set to be the deadliest year on record for LGBTQ populations in Brazil, with 396 deaths since January. That number is an 8 percent increase from last year, according to LGBTQ rights watchdog Group Gay da Bahia, which has been measuring these numbers since 1970.

Amnesty asserts that a lack of governmental support is contributing to higher death tolls for defenders across the planet, and that Brazil is no exception. “The violent attacks documented in this report are the logical endpoint of a disturbing trend, where, instead of defending human rights defenders, many world leaders place them at greater risk,” said Guadalupe Marengo, Amnesty’s global program coordinator for human rights defenders. “States need to publicly acknowledge the fundamental role played by human rights defenders.”

Read the full story NOW!

Tags: , , ,


About the author

Ciara Long

Based in Rio de Janeiro, Ciara focuses on covering human rights, culture, and politics.