Our Voices

Brazil: Civil Society Organizations Denounce Human Rights Violations of Indigenous Peoples in Brazil before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

Brasilia, Washington D.C.
October 28, 2022

As the context for indigenous peoples in Brazil is increasingly hostile and adverse as the State continues to direct efforts to infringe on their territorial rights threaten the legitimate and safe occupancy of their territories, the organizations Articulação dos Povos Indígenas do Brasil (APIB), Coordenação das Organizações Indígenas da Amazônia Brasileira (COIAB), União dos Povos Indígenas do Vale do Javari (UNIVAJA), Terra de Direitos, Conectas, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights (RFKHR), Greenpeace Brazil, Amazon Watch (AW), Washington Brazil Office (WBO), and the Due Process of Law Foundation (DPLF), participated in a hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in the framework of its 185th session, on Wednesday, September 26, 2022.

Violence against indigenous peoples continues and has deepened within the framework of the electoral context, as instances of violence have characterized the period of general elections in Brazil in 2022. I the month of September alone (this being the last month of the campaign period) eight members of indigenous communities were murdered in the states of Mato Grosso do Sul, Mannhāo, Bahia and Pará.

In order to denounce these facts and make visible the human rights situation of the indigenous peoples of Brazil, The hearing included the intervention of members indigenous leaders [Indigenous lawyer Kari Guajajara (COIAB), Indigenous lawyer Eliesio Marubo (UNIVAJA);Rodrigo Mady Pataxó; as and Indigenous lawyer Mauricio Terena (APIB); as well as representatives of the State of Brazil; the regional representative of the Regional Office for South America of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Jan Jarab; and representatives of the IACHR, including the commissioners, as well as the special rapporteur on Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights.

The petitioners informed the Commission of the different risks and threats to which the indigenous peoples in Brazil have been subjected, particularly the violence against the groups of the Vale do Javari, the Guajajara, and other peoples belonging to COIAB; as well as the Pataxó, and Guaraní Kaiowá in Guapó. Particular concern was also expressed about the political violence that has characterized the year of general elections in Brazil, which intensified during the campaign period. Similarly, the petitioners expressed the risks presented by some of the bills that are pending before the National Congress for the exercise of the territorial rights of indigenous peoples in Brazil, particularly the bill PL 191. Finally, they again raised attention to the threat posed by the adoption of the Marco Temporal thesis for the effective protection and demarcation of their ancestral lands.

The representative of the OHCHR, Jan Jarab, reiterated his concern over the series of attacks, threats and intimidation denounced by representatives of the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil. As indigenous lawyer Kari Guajajara stated, “[The attacks] are not isolated cases. From 2003 to 2019, at least 57 indigenous people were killed in Maranhão. As we do not have a public body that counts these deaths, they are being silenced […] indigenous peoples in Brazil are killed not only for being guardians of the forest but also for their status as indigenous”. Univaja’s representative, the indigenous lawyer Eliesio Marubo, pointed out that “Univaja has denounced in all possible ways the violence against indigenous peoples without obtaining a response from the State.”

The State of Brazil affirmed through its representatives and members of Funai, to be helping and defending indigenous communities throughout the country. However, as was questioned by the Commission itself, and confirmed by the UN representative and representatives of civil society, it is the indigenous peoples who protect their territories, forests and conservation areas and assume responsibilities that should correspond to the State and its public authorities. As a result, indigenous people have been the object of repeated executions and other attacks. As Cacique Rodrigo Pataxó indicated during his intervention: “they are assassinating us and Funai does not reach our community.” While the representatives of the State and Funai presented an unrealistic image of the country, deforestation, agribusiness and the advance of mining and high-impact activities, continue to increase and put the lives and territories of indigenous peoples at risk. The anti-indigenism of the so-called “new Funai” is a sad episode in the history of the country and of what was the main indigenous protection agency.

During the hearing, the commissioners reiterated the problems related to territorial and environmental defense, recalling the precautionary measures granted by the IACHR in favor of various indigenous peoples, including the Guajajara, Awá, Munduruku, Yanomami and Ye’kwana, in which they requested the State to adopt the necessary measures to protect, among others, the rights to life and personal integrity of the members of the indigenous communities. Stating that the response of the State of Brazil has not been satisfactory. Brazil is one of the most dangerous countries for environmental defenders. In this context, the IACHR Commissioner asked during the hearing what steps the State of Brazil has taken to ratify the Escazú Agreements. State representatives did not respond to this question. Finally, the Commission emphasized its commitment to the indigenous peoples of Brazil and its desire to visit the country next year.

From their respective mandates, the signatory organizations will continue to work for the respect of human rights in Brazil, and we will continue to support local and allied organizations to promote actions aimed at the protection of indigenous communities in Brazil.

To view the recording of the public hearing, click here.

Petitioning organizations:

Articulação dos Povos Indígenas do Brasil (APIB)
Coordenação das Organizações Indígenas da Amazônia Brasileira (COIAB)
União dos Povos Indígenas do Vale do Javari (UNIVAJA)
Terra de Direitos
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights (RFKHR)
Greenpeace Brasil
Amazon Watch
Washington Brazil Office
Due Process of Law Foundation (DPLF)