IACHR Publishes Report on Human Rights Situation in Brazil and Highlights Impacts of Historical Processes of Discrimination and Structural Inequality

March 11, 2021

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Washington, D.C.- The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) published its report on Brazil, which contains a comprehensive diagnostic exercise on the human rights situation in the country as of December 2019, based on the copious information it received during and after the visit it carried out from November 5 to 12, 2018, and during country-specific and thematic public hearings.

In the report, the IACHR notes that, despite the existence of the rule of law, a democratic system, and human rights institutions, Brazil faces structural challenges in overcoming issues relating to forms of discrimination that have been neglected historically, which is particularly affecting groups such as people of African descent, women, quilombola communities, indigenous peoples, campesinos and rural workers, street people, and people living in informal urban settlements or peripheral areas.

In the report, the IACHR notes that structural discrimination is intrinsically linked to social exclusion and access to land, generating cycles of inequality and extreme poverty. This exposes vulnerable people to violence perpetrated by criminal organizations such as militias and drug traffickers, as well as those engaged in human trafficking and other modern forms of slavery.

Likewise, the IACHR deems that these challenges are also having a negative impact on citizen security. Although extreme inequality leads to an increase in the violence to which people in vulnerable situations are exposed, the state has chosen to design and implement security policies that are based on violent, punitive institutional actions on the part of militarized police forces, resulting in serious human rights violations. The IACHR also analyzed the role of judicial authorities in implementing such policies and the pattern of impunity that surrounds institutional violence.

The IACHR found that security policies in Brazil used racial profiling practices that make people of African descent and the residents of marginal neighborhoods more vulnerable to arbitrary detention and abuse. This is especially reflected in facilities where people are deprived of their freedom, which are often overcrowded and end up becoming institutional environments that tolerate torture and other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. This is true of prisons, socioeducational units, and therapeutic communities.

The IACHR noted the high degree of impunity surrounding cases of institutional violence: for the most part, the justice system has made no progress on investigations, convictions, and reparations for victims. Indeed, the impunity currently surrounding cases of institutional violence can be compared to that observed regarding crimes that occurred during the civilian–military dictatorship in Brazil, despite other differences. In this regard, the IACHR acknowledged the progress made by different truth commissions at the state and federal level in relation to cases of torture and forced disappearance. However, it stressed that impunity continues to surround most of these cases.

The IACHR also noted the increase in threats to the lives of journalists and media workers by the authorities, a situation that has become worse since the national elections of 2018. This has jeopardized people with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and/or expressions, or sexual characteristics, who have experienced an increase in hate crimes targeting them.

At the institutional level, the IACHR analyzed several initiatives seeking to guarantee and promote respect for human rights in Brazil, such as the creation of mechanisms to prevent torture and strengthen prosecutors' offices and national human rights institutions. It also notes with satisfaction major public policies that seek to reduce structural inequality and make progress on the fight against racism and historical discrimination, such as income transfer programs and access to housing and land, as well as policies to enable people of African descent and indigenous people to access university education.

The IACHR concludes the report with several recommendations to consolidate a system to promote and protect human rights, in accordance with the commitments taken on by the Brazilian State in the inter-American and international spheres. However, it also warns Brazil that some of its actions run the risk of weakening and even putting an end to this system, such as the weakening of democratic spaces.

Finally, the IACHR wishes to thank the State for all the information it provided during and after the visit, as well as civil society organizations and other relevant actors for the information they provided, particularly the victims and family members who have turned to the IACHR for assistance.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 050/21