IACHR Asks Brazil to Prevent, Investigate, and Punish Violence in Its Upcoming Election Process

July 29, 2022

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) notes with concern the violence linked to the current political context in Brazil, as well as the comments made by political leaders (including high authorities) that could deepen the polarized atmosphere ahead of upcoming elections. The IACHR calls on the Brazilian State to prevent violence by providing protection and security measures during the election process, and to ensure adequate investigation of all acts of violence.

According to publicly available reports, on July 9, 2022, Marcelo Aloizio de Arruda, a municipal police officer and treasurer of the Workers Party (PT), was murdered by a federal police officer who burst into a party and shot the victim with a political motive. Further, Claudinei Coco Esquarcini, the private security guard at the hall where the party was taking place, who was charged with watching security camera footage at the site, was found dead on July 17, 2022. In a separate incident, the IACHR was informed of the use of drones to throw human excrement at participants in a political election on June 15.

There have also been reports of physical attacks on supporters of various political parties, even in the context of public ralliesData gathered by the Observatory of Political and Electoral Violence in Brazil shows a significant increase in politically motivated violence. According to available reports, in 2022 alone, 214 cases of violence against individuals in political leadership positions have been reported, including 45 alleged homicides. The IACHR notes that it is necessary to investigate these events in order to punish anyone responsible for them, and to take action to prevent similar violence in the future.

The IACHR has seen increasing political polarization in Brazil in recent years, which can be heightened or exacerbated by intolerant public comments from high authorities and other political leaders. As noted elsewhere, this concept refers to individuals in leadership positions or individuals with significant power, influence, and reach in the public sphere, like those who hold public office by election or appointment, candidates to hold public office, and political party leaders and officials.

In this political polarization context, the IACHR is also concerned about public reports of an increase in the possession of firearms by private individuals and by more flexible access to weapons of this type enabled by executive decrees that make it easier to register, own, and sell firearms and ammunition to private citizens. This contributes to aggravating political violence. The situation must be assessed in connection with the events that were described earlier, in the context of politically motivated violence, rather than as isolated incidents.

The Inter-American Court has said that, even when an official comment may not have justified or ordered violence or directly incited it, it can often increase the vulnerability of potential victims of violence with regard to the State and to certain sectors within society. The IACHR therefore reminds individuals in political leadership positions that their comments face some restrictions beyond those applicable to private citizens, based for instance on their high office, their broad reach, and the power and influence of their expressions in the public sphere. In this context, the IACHR stresses that, given State obligations to respect, promote, and protect human rights, public officials are particularly singled out for their special role as warrantors of human rights. They therefore have the duty to ensure that, when they exercise their freedom of expression, they are not ignoring these rights.

The Inter-American Commission notes the solid nature of democratic institutions and the rule of law in Brazil. However, the Commission also calls on the country's high authorities and on all Brazilian political leaders to refrain from making comments that might foster intolerance, discrimination, deliberate misinformation, or hatred. As previously said by the Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression, these officials must make the most of their leadership positions to fight these social evils and to promote intercultural understanding and respect for diversity. Similarly, the Commission urges the State to launch diligent investigations into all allegations of violence and to pursue ongoing investigations, in order to punish anyone found responsible for those actions.

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. 171/22

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