Press Release

IACHR condemns murder of Guarani-Kaiowá indigenous leader in Brazil

June 27, 2016

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Washington, D.C.— The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the murder of Clodiodi Aquileu Rodrigues de Souza, a 26-year-old Guarani-Kaiowá indigenous leader from the Dourados-Amambai Pegua I community, in Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil.  The IACHR is deeply troubled by the high incidence of acts of violence against Guarani-Kaiowá indigenous communities, especially in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, and it urges the Brazilian Government immediately to conduct a thorough investigation of this matter in order to bring the culprits to justice, punish them, and prevent the recurrence of such acts. 

According to information received by the IACHR, on June 14, 2016, several members of the Dourados-Amambai Pegua I community were on the Yvu Estate, where they were occupying an area that is part of the ancestral lands that they claim.  Reports suggest that a group of armed individuals surrounded them before proceeding to open fire, killing Clodiodi Aquileu Rodrigues de Souza and wounding six other community members, including a boy of 12.

There is evidence to suggest that this murder came about in retaliation to the land claims made by members of the Dourados-Amambai Pegua I community and that the attack was carried out by paramilitary groups hired by the estate’s owners.  It is important to emphasize that this incident occurred in the context of a land dispute characterized by the failure of the relevant government authorities to demarcate and title ancestral indigenous lands.

The IACHR notes with concern that the state of Estado de Mato Grosso do Sul has the highest murder rate of indigenous leaders in the country and that, in spite of admonitions and recommendations from the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the Brazilian State consistently neglects to adopt the necessary urgent measures to prevent and punish violence against Guarani-Kaiowá indigenous communities.  

The Inter-American Commission appeals to the Brazilian State to conduct a thorough investigation into these violent attacks forthwith and promptly to prosecute and punish those responsible The IACHR also requests the state and federal authorities to adopt immediate measures to protect the lives and well-being of the members of the Guarani-Kaiowá people in the region.

The IACHR recalls that states have an obligation to take steps to ensure effective control by indigenous peoples over their lands and to protect indigenous peoples from acts of violence or harassment by others. The Commission also reiterates that indigenous and tribal peoples have the right to expect the authorities to prevent disputes with third parties over land ownership, particularly in cases where delays in, or lack of, demarcation have the potential to ignite conflicts.

A principal, autonomous body of the 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. 089/16