Press Release

IACHR Condemns Killings of Indigenous Human Rights Defenders in Brazil

June 4, 2015

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the killings of three indigenous human rights defenders in the states of Maranhão and Bahía, in Brazil.

According to publicly available information, indigenous leader Eusebio Ka’apor was killed on April 26, 2015, by hooded gunmen who shot him in the back, in the indigenous territory of Alto Turiaçu, in Maranhão state. Like other members of his community, Eusebio Ka’apor participated in a movement against the presence of illegal loggers in indigenous territories, which resulted in the March 2015 shutdown of all illegal logging operations in the region. The information available indicates that Eusebio Ka’apor’s name was on a list of people who were going to be killed by the loggers.

In addition, according to publicly available information, Adenilson da Silva, a Tupinambá indigenous leader who worked on health issues in his community, was killed on May 1, 2015, by three hooded gunman, close to Serra das Trempes, in Bahía state. The information indicates that he was with his wife, his 1-year-old son, and his 15-year-old daughter when he was attacked, and that his wife received gunshot wounds to her legs and back. His wife and son were hospitalized.

The information available further indicates that human rights defender Gilmar Alves da Silva was killed on May 3, 2015. He was riding his motorcycle toward the town of Pambú, located in the territory of the Tumbalalá indigenous community, when he was shot by two unidentified individuals who were traveling in an car. The information received indicates that the military police have located the vehicle and the weapons used to kill him, but that the perpetrators have not yet been apprehended.

The Inter-American Commission urges the State of Brazil to investigate these killings will due diligence, and prosecute and punish those responsible. In this sense, the Commission urges the competent authorities to pursue all logical lines of inquiry, including the possibility that these killings were motivated by the activities of these indigenous leaders in their role as human rights defenders. The IACHR also urges the State to adopt measures without delay to protect the life and physical integrity of indigenous peoples and their leaders and rights defenders, with respect for their cultural identity, perspective, and conception of rights.

Acts of violence and other attacks perpetrated against human rights defenders not only affect the guarantees that belong to every human being; they also undermine the essential role human rights defenders play in society and leave all those for whom they fight defenseless. The IACHR urges the State of Brazil to take any measures necessary to ensure that human rights defenders can carry out their work of denunciation, accompaniment, and protection, free from attacks or acts of violence that may endanger their life, integrity, and safety.

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 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. 060/15