IACHR Expresses Concern over Bills That Could Constitute Setbacks for the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Brazil

September 9, 2021

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Washington, D.C. — The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expressed its concern over various bills that might represent serious setbacks for the rights of indigenous peoples in Brazil.

In connection with this, the IACHR received information on the processing of Legislative Decree 177/2021, which authorizes the President of the Republic of Brazil to disregard International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention No. 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples. It also learned of Bill 3729/2004, which would overturn environmental requirements for agribusiness and energy enterprises or make these more flexible. Furthermore, Bill 191/2020 seeks to liberalize mining, hydrocarbon-related activities, and the use of water resources in indigenous territories.

The IACHR also expressed its concern over the passing of Bill 490/07 by the Constitution and Justice Commission of the Chamber of Deputies on June 23, 2021. The objective of the bill is to restrict the demarcation of indigenous lands and allow these to be considered as possible sites for military bases, units, and posts, the expansion of the road network, and the exploration of strategic alternative energy sources, among other actions.

It was also informed that the Chamber of Deputies passed Bill 2633/20, which seeks to regularize illegally occupied public lands, thereby potentially encouraging the invasion of indigenous territories or the consolidation of existing occupations. Likewise, Bill 4348/2019 is now ready for presidential sanction: the objective of this legislation is to privatize land that is earmarked for agrarian reform and to allow the irregular occupants of plots in such areas to obtain title deeds to the land in question.

The IACHR report on the human rights situation in Brazil warned of a rise in the alarming practice of invasion of indigenous territories by third parties, such as illegal miners, loggers, agribusiness, and drug traffickers, with the aim of appropriating these communities' natural resources. The IACHR noted that this is the context in which the bills described above are being processed and expressed its concern that this is resulting in an increase in deforestation and growing numbers of acts of aggression, harassment, and murder against indigenous peoples as a reprisal for their work defending their territories. The IACHR has found that these circumstances exacerbate the human rights violations suffered by indigenous peoples, which are having a notable impact on their lands, territories, and natural resources, and thus on their very physical and cultural survival.

In response, the IACHR reminded the State of Brazil of the unique relationship that exists between indigenous and tribal peoples in their territories and their right to self-determination, which is recognized by international law and obliges States to adopt special measures to recognize, respect, protect, and guarantee the right to communal ancestral property.

Consequently, the IACHR urged the State of Brazil to refrain from adopting measures that run counter to its international obligations and to observe its duty to protect the lands, territories, and natural resources of indigenous people through actions that they have been consulted regarding and to which they have agreed.

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. 236/21

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