Press Release

IACHR adopts precautionary measures in favor of members of the Quilombo Rio dos Macacos Community in Brazil

August  31, 2020

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Washington, D.C. - On August 6, 2020, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) adopted Resolution 44/2020, by which it granted precautionary measures in favor of members of the Remnant Community of Quilombo Rio dos Macacos. The applicants alleged that the beneficiaries are at risk due to threats, harassment, and acts of violence perpetrated against them, in the context of their dispute for recognition of the territory, and in view of the potential collapse of the dam in Rio dos Macacos, close to the territory.

Upon reaching its decision, the Commission took into account that, during its in loco visit to Brazil in November 2018, testimonies were gathered in the Quilombo Rio dos Macacos which pointed to “[...] a pattern of systematic violations of rights, including homicides, sexual violence, gender-based killings of women, domestic violence, as well as threats, aggressions and criminalization of leaders of these communities.” In this regard, the Commission understands that the conditions of vulnerability to which communities of African tribal descent have been exposed, due to structural and historical racial discrimination, impair their access to and realization of their rights.

In the current situation, the Commission noted that the beneficiaries have reported recurrent acts of violence and threats over the years and indicated that the threats they face have escalated. This is reportedly due to the progression in the land ownership proceedings in favor of the community –which was formally recognized on May 30, 2020– and to the ongoing pursuit of their rights. As an example of the latter, the Commission considered an alleged murder, together with threats against Quilombo spokespersons and the presence of armed men inside some homes. These facts illustrate the level of risk faced by the beneficiaries and the type of harm caused on their rights to life and personal integrity. Similarly, in these circumstances, they highlighted the possibility that other people may be equally attacked. The incidents that pose a risk to the community continue to occur, since, far from having diminished over time, these acts have reoccurred recently, and the measures adopted by the State are reportedly insufficient or not appropriate.

In addition, another indication that the measures implemented may have been unsuitable is the alleged involvement of police officers in acts of criminalization or hostility against the persons they are intended to protect. Thus, the Commission takes note of the applicants' claim that such approaches by the police seek to target spokesperson Rose Meire Santos Silva, as they involve her family members, and warns of the seriousness of this claim given the alleged involvement of State agents. It is therefore pertinent to recall the State's duty to protect persons under its jurisdiction, including from acts that might have been committed by its agents. In addition, the Commission observed that, with regard to the investigations into the recent incidents, the State merely indicated that “[t]he proceedings are still in progress.” No further information was provided, such as the results of the investigations or the possible imposition of sentences, if any. The information focused on categorizing certain allegations made by the applicants as "false", even though the incidents that pose a threat to the community have reportedly occurred continuously over the years.

On the other hand, the IACHR observed the applicants’ allegations that the dam has "serious structural problems", as they provided a copy of the technical report that categorizes the situation as being of "high risk". The Commission observed a lack of sufficient information to make the same determination, particularly considering that the State has reportedly adopted sufficient mitigation measures to avert an "immediate" risk of rupture of the dam.

Consequently, in accordance with Article 25 of the IACHR Rules of Procedure, the Commission requested that the State of Brazil adopt the necessary measures, while implementing an adequate intercultural approach, to protect the rights to life and personal integrity of the members of the remnant community of the Quilombo Rio dos Macacos. In particular, the State must protect them from the threats, acts of harassment and violence committed by both state officers and third parties, pursuant to international law of human rights; consult and agree upon the measures to be adopted with the beneficiaries and their representatives; and report on the measures adopted in order to investigate the facts that led to the adoption of this precautionary measure and thus avoid its reoccurrence.

The fact that this precautionary measure has been granted and its adoption by the state does not entail a prejudgment on any petition that may eventually be filed before the Inter-American system, in which  violations to the rights protected by the applicable international instruments may be alleged.

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. 207/20