IACHR Urges State of Brazil to Protect Children of the Yanomami People Who Are Victims of Violence

May 23, 2022

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) is very concerned about the systematic violence suffered by the Yanomami people in Brazil, particularly about allegations of crimes committed against indigenous children. The Commission urges the State to protect the Yanomami people and its members through measures that include prompt and effective investigations of these allegations.

On April 25, a group of garimpeiros (informal gold searchers) attacked the Yanomami community of Aracaçá, in the Waikás region in the state of Roraima, an area that is—according to publicly available reports—intensely affected by illegal mining. A 12-year-old girl was allegedly raped and murdered by garimpeiros during the attack. A 28-year-old woman and her 3-year-old son were allegedly kidnapped; the woman allegedly managed to escape, but the boy was said to have been thrown into a river and remained missing.

The IACHR notes that Brazil's Federal Police has launched an investigation into these events and that, a few days after the formal complaint was filed, a delegation of staff from the public prosecutor's office, the Federal Police, the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI, by its Portuguese acronym), and the Special Department for Indigenous Peoples' Health (SESAI) visited the community and found that it had been set ablaze and that many residents had been displaced to another community. According to the available reports, these State institutions publicly said that they had found no evidence of the events mentioned in the allegations.

According to information that was provided by the State, since the authorities were notified of the first attack on this indigenous community on May 10, 2021, FUNAI units have been working on site, with security support provided by the Federal Police, while state teams have been providing additional security services to this indigenous community on a daily basis. A committee of legislators is allegedly also conducting a visit to Roraima to monitor progress in these investigations and to interview indigenous leaders and authorities.

These events happened in a context where miners' camps in Yanomami territory increased by 3.25% over the period 2016–2020. In 2021, illegal mining grew by 46% relative to 2020, according to civil society data. The increase in land invasions has been repeatedly reported by the Yanomami people and the IACHR has addressed the issue in several reports and press releases, while several precautionary measures have been granted to protect these peoples' physical and cultural survival. In its report Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in the Pan-Amazon Region, the IACHR denounced the systematic invasion of Yanomami territory for illegal mining and noted that conflicts and violence against the Yanomami will continue unless measures are taken to protect their territory and unless miners are expelled from the area.

The presence of illegal mining has brought with it an increase in the number of cases of malaria and other infectious diseases, mercury pollution, and more intense violence, along with sexual violence perpetrated by garimpeiros against Yanomami women and girls.

The IACHR warns that violations of the rights of indigenous women and girls not only affect them individually, but also negatively affect their peoples and have a serious impact on the social fabric, as well as entailing a heightened sense of defenselessness and impunity.

The State of Brazil must comply with its comprehensive obligation to protect the lives, personal integrity, and land, territory, and natural resources of the Yanomami people, as well as with its duty to investigate all acts of violence and punish anyone responsible for them.

The IACHR commends the Brazilian authorities of competent jurisdiction for their efforts at the site. The Commission notes, however, that in cases involving indigenous women and girls all investigations of acts of violence must take into consideration the principle of enhanced due diligence, so those investigations incorporate an intercultural perspective and a gender perspective and prioritize the comprehensive protection of women, girls, and adolescents at the intersection of two or more discrimination factors. The IACHR stresses the serious impact of failing to comply with due diligence while investigating acts of gender-based violence and punishing their perpetrators and notes that impunity in these crimes sends out the message that this kind of violence is tolerated, which encourages its perpetuation.

Finally, the IACHR urges the State to adopt—in compliance with standards on the right to participation of indigenous peoples—reparation mechanisms with a gender perspective in favor of members of the Yanomami people who have suffered acts of violence at the hands of third parties entering their territory, particularly violence against Yanomami women, girls, and adolescents. Reparations granted by the State must also include an intercultural and intergenerational perspective and, as individual and collective reparations, must take into consideration the impact of sexual violence on women and girls and on their families and communities.

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. 110/22

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