IACHR Press Office
Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) conducted a working visit to Brazil on May 14–19, 2023, with the aim of monitoring the implementation of 11 precautionary measures granted to protect indigenous peoples and Quilombola communities, human rights defenders, LGBTI persons, missing persons, adolescents in conflict with criminal law, and persons who are deprived of liberty.
The delegation was led by Commissioner Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño (the IACHR's Vice President and Rapporteur for Indigenous Peoples and for Children and Adolescents) and also included Commissioner Julissa Mantilla (country Rapporteur for Brazil), IACHR Executive Secretary Tania Reneaum Panszi, and technical experts.
The Commission appreciates honest, constructive dialogue at the highest level and thanks the State of Brazil for its support and for enabling efforts to monitor precautionary measures in several places around the country. The Commission also appreciates the efforts of both the federal government and the state authorities of Río de Janeiro and Maranhão, who collaborated in various activities to ensure a successful visit. The IACHR further appreciates the information provided by various organizations, individuals, and communities and their willingness to attend meetings to provide their accounts of the implementation of precautionary measures.
On May 14, the first day of the visit, in Brasilia, the Commission met with Multilateral Political Affairs Secretary Carlos Márcio Bicalho Cozendey at the Ministry of Foreign Relations. The delegation also met with incoming federal government authorities, including Human Rights and Citizenship Minister Silvio Almeida; technical staff for issues regarding LGBTQIA+ persons, children and adolescents, and the Program to Protect Human Rights Defenders, Communications Specialists, and Environmental Defenders; and high authorities of the Ministry for Women, the Ministry for Indigenous Peoples, the Justice Ministry, and the Ministry for Racial Equality.
Also on May 14, the IACHR held two working meetings concerning precautionary measures 818-04—Raposa Serra do Sol (Ingarico, Macuxi, Patamona, Taurepang, and Wapixana Indigenous Peoples) and 458-19—Members of the Guyraroka Community of the Guarani Kaiowa Indigenous People. The delegation further had the opportunity to meet with high authorities of the National Justice Council (CNJ) to find out more about the results of the creation of the Unit to Monitor and Implement the Decisions and Deliberations of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
On its second day of activity in Brasilia, the IACHR held three working meetings concerning precautionary measures 1211-19—Quilombo Río dos Macacos Remaining Community; 938-22—Members of the Quilombola Territory Boa Hora III/Marmorana (in the rural area Alto Alegre do Maranhão); and 60-15—Adolescents Held in the São Miguel Educational Facility, the Dom Bosco Educational Facility, and the Patativa do Assaré Educational Facility. The Commission held a meeting to monitor the implementation of recommendations made in case 12,051—Maria da Penha, in the context of its strategy to ensure closer follow-up in this case. Commissioner Julissa Mantilla, the IACHR's Rapporteur for Brazil and for Women, congratulated the parties on their commitment to attaining full compliance with recommendations and stressed their importance in the fight against domestic violence in Brazil.
On May 17, the Commission travelled to the city of Río de Janeiro and met with state authorities of the Social Development and Human Rights Department; the Program to Protect Human Rights Defenders, Social Communications Specialists, and Environmental Defenders; the Public Prosecutor's Office of the state of Río de Janeiro; the Prisons Administration Department; and the Women's Policies and Promotion Department. In Río de Janeiro, the delegation held working meetings involving State authorities and beneficiaries and their representatives concerning the following precautionary measures: 408-22—Benny Briolly Rosa da Silva Santos and identified members of his staff; 767-18—Mônica Tereza Azeredo Benício; 1358-18—Joana D'arc Mendes; and 1489-18—André Luis Moreira. The Commission also met with the Ombudsperson's Office of the state of Río de Janeiro, with the state's mechanism to prevent and fight torture, and with representatives of beneficiaries in precautionary measure 888-19—Persons who Are Deprived of Liberty at Jorge Santana Public Penitentiary, which was later expanded to persons who are deprived of liberty at Alfredo Tranjan Penitentiary (PAT).
On May 18, the IACHR visited Jorge Santana and Alfredo Tranjan penitentiaries to observe on site the situation of individuals who are deprived of liberty there. The IACHR met with Prison Management Secretary Maria Rosa Lo Duca Nebel and with the leadership of both penitentiary facilities. During the visit, the delegation valued the fact that primary healthcare was available in both prisons, based on the national policy to provide comprehensive healthcare to persons who are deprived of liberty in the prison system. The Commission noted the gradual efforts being made to reduce overcrowding at Jorge Santana Penitentiary since precautionary measures were granted in 2019. However, the delegation found that overcrowding and unsanitary conditions persisted in both prisons, along with pests and a lack of sufficient mattresses and beds. The delegation also received a complaint from inmates concerning poor-quality food and food that sometimes reaches prisons in a state that makes it unsuitable for consumption.
Concerning Alfredo Tranjan Penitentiary, the IACHR saw some inmates with ostomy pouching systems and external braces that were past their removal dates and inmates who had projectiles lodged in their bodies who did not know when the next available date for surgery and physiotherapy sessions might be, although they needed those sessions to prevent irreparable harm to their physical integrity. The delegation heard accounts about inmates who required surgery and were taken to the Hamilton Agostinho Emergency Care Unit only to return without the medical care they needed, instead of being taken to secondary and tertiary care hospitals. Further, several beneficiaries reported that transport by the Special Operations Service for inmates who required medical care was inappropriate. Vehicles were said to be overcrowded, inmates handcuffed (and sometimes in positions that they found painful), and health condition was often not taken into consideration (even for inmates with disabilities or who moved with difficulty).
In this context, the IACHR calls on the State to reinforce compliance with these precautionary measures, and even to reassess—based on the applicable international standards—deprivation of liberty for beneficiaries with disabilities and others with specific needs, whose lives and personal integrity may be at risk, in keeping with Resolution 53/22 (Alfredo Tranjan Penitentiary).
The Commission noted that it is important for the State to be able to set up permanent consultation mechanisms with beneficiaries' representatives, the Río de Janeiro State Mechanism for the Prevention of and Fight Against Torture and the Ombudsperson's Office of the State of Río de Janeiro. The IACHR calls for stronger coordination among the executive and the judiciary.
Before the end of its visit to Río de Janeiro, the IACHR met with judges of the state's criminal courts and of the National Justice Council and attended the signing of the Judiciary's National Agreement for Human Rights.
On the last day of the visit, May 19, the Commission travelled to the Araribóia Indigenous Land to monitor the implementation of precautionary measure 754-20—Members of the Guajajara and Awa Indigenous Peoples. Guajajara leaders welcomed the Commission's delegation and alerted it about the increase in violence in their territory, given the presence of unauthorized third parties who threatened and murdered community leaders and members. They noted that there had been seven murders over the period September 2022–April 2023.
Beneficiaries of these precautionary measures said that the Guajajara indigenous guard was carrying out its tasks to defend and protect its people, its territory, and indigenous peoples living in voluntary isolation (like the Awa people) with no support from State authorities. Members of the Guajajara indigenous people also reported that investigations of murders kept failing to take into consideration the structural causes of violence and the collective dimension of indigenous peoples' fight to protect their territory and the environment. Further, they issued a warning about the construction of a road in their territory without prior consultation or free and informed consent. These members of the Guajajara indigenous people were concerned that previous Brazilian governments had applied few public policies for indigenous peoples in the fields of healthcare, education, and security, and that the policies that had been applied had proved ineffective. They further noted that institutions in charge of defending and promoting the rights of indigenous peoples, like FUNAI and IBAMA, had been weakened under previous governments.
"These are serious problems, particularly considering their impact on the rights of indigenous peoples and communities," said Commissioner Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño, the IACHR's Rapporteur for Indigenous Peoples, who also expressed her solidarity with the families of indigenous persons who had been murdered or injured.
The IACHR called on the State to urgently address the lack of protection faced by the Guajajara and Awa indigenous peoples, increasing security in their territory. The Commission also stressed the important role played by indigenous guards to defend these communities' rights to life, territory, and worldview. The IACHR noted that the State must continue to investigate these crimes and that it must punish their perpetrators and masterminds, while adopting a differentiated ethnic-racial approach to investigate, try, and punish these crimes and to provide reparations for them.
The Commission acknowledges the commitment of the incoming authorities of the Brazilian State to complying with precautionary measures and to strengthening dialogue with beneficiary individuals and communities and their representatives. Brazil's new State authorities are also committed to protecting and mitigating the risks that gave rise to the adoption of these precautionary measures.
The IACHR will continue to monitor the implementation of recommendations made in these precautionary measures to protect the affected individuals and communities, in the exercise of its mandate and using the various mechanisms at its disposal.
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.