| 20-09-2016

Worrying regression for indigenous peoples in Brazil, says UN Rapporteur

UN Special Rapporteur on the Right of Indigenous Peoples expresses deep concern over the escalation of violence and the regression in the protection of communities, particularly affecting the Guarani and Kaiowá in Mato Grosso do Sul.

The     report by Ms Victoria Tauli-Corpuz presented on her last visit to Brazil, carried out in March this year, was one of the protagonists of the 33rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council. Although Brazil has a number of progressive provisions addressing the rights of indigenous peoples and the homologation of their territory, UN Rapporteur underlines there is a "disturbing absence of progress".

In her view, the stagnation of the homologation of the land is attributed to a series of factors, including the lack of political will to conclude demarcation procedures at the ministerial and Presidential level. The poor understanding and appreciation of indigenous peoples in the country, together with the debilitation, at administrative and financial level,  of the Brazilian government body the Indian Foundation (FUNAI), have also been major causes, says the Rapporteur.

And, with the current political climate, criminalization of community leaders and violence facing indigenous peoples could be exacerbated and the long-standing protections of their human rights be at risk. This has been illustrated by increasing incidents, including the alarming attacks by fazendeiros (alleged farm or plantation owners), which resulted in the death of a member of the Guarani and Kaiowá and the injury of several others in     Carapó city. No measures to investigate and ensure further protection have been put in place.

Commenting on the report, a member of the Kurusu Ambá community in Mato Grosso ,  Elizeu Lopes,  currently on tour in Europe, says:  "We requested her visit, as no major developments had been made since the first visit of the former Rapporteur in 2009. The Rapporteur saw what is happening on the ground with her own eyes. She came to visit us and we had the opportunity to tell our experience and struggles for realizing our rights as indigenous peoples". Elizeu, who is also representative of the Consejo del Aty Guasu and Consejo Continental de la Nación Guaraní (CCNAGUA), recalls that the federal police in Mato Grosso do Sul tried to discourage the Rapporteur from continuing her visits, as they argue the indigenous communities could "attack her". Yet, after the conclusion of her visit, the fazeinderos perpetrated several attacks on Guarani and Kaiowá communities,     including Elizeu´s community.

In her recommendations, Ms Tauli-Corpuz urges the State of Brazil to take immediate measures to protect the safety of indigenous leaders, including through strengthened and culturally appropriate protection programs, and to conduct investigations into all attacks and killings of indigenous peoples and bring perpetrators to justice.

The Rapporteur also calls on Brazil to redouble efforts to "move beyond the current impasse in relation to land demarcation". In her words, this is particularly urgent in states like Mato Grosso do Sul, and the executive should develop, in collaboration with indigenous peoples, proactive proposals to respect and fulfil indigenous rights to land, through a thorough examination of all avenues available.  On this note, she recommends the government completes all demarcation processes pending at FUNAI, the Ministry of Justice and the Presidency, in particular those threatened by development projects, agribusiness expansion and natural resource extraction activities.

It is expected that the insightful rapport increases pressure on the state of Brazil to fulfill their international human rights obligations. The report serves as an important tool for the indigenous peoples' movements in Brazil and supporting organizations to advance their struggle at national level. CIMI and FIAN Brazil, together with other civil society organizations and Luciano Maia, Coordinator of the 6th Chamber of the Indigenous and Traditional Peoples, will organize a public hearing on October 20 in Brasilia to raise further awareness of the recommendations at national level and discuss strategy to ensure appropriate monitoring.

The Rapporteur will also accompany indigenous people's representatives at the UN side event     "Indigenous Peoples' Human Rights: Perspectives in Times of Setback and Violence in Brazil" on September 21 at Palais des Nations, in Geneva.

For more information, please contact:     bley-folly(at)fian.org