Press Release

IACHR Condemns Murder of Peasant Who Defended Land Rights in Brazil

February 13, 2018

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Washington, DC - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemned the murder of Márcio Matos, a peasant who was part of the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST) in Brazil. Matos was killed on January 24 in Iramaia, Bahia, Brazil.

According to information received by the IACHR, Márcio Matos was shot dead during the night of January 24 in front of his six-year-old son. According to preliminary investigations, the five shots fired at him were concentrated in the region of the thorax and the head, indicating that he had no chance to defend himself.

The IACHR acknowledges the measures that the state of Brazil has taken to investigate this case and stresses that the state is obliged to conduct these investigations promptly, seriously, impartially, and exhaustively, exploring all logical lines of investigation thoroughly. In this sense, the state must consider that the defender’s work in relation to the right to land may have motivated the crime in question. The IACHR also wishes to underline the importance of orienting these investigations toward promoting access to justice for family members, providing them with all relevant information, and offering them ample opportunity for involvement.

According to incomplete data from the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT), in 2017, 65 people were killed in conflicts in rural areas, making Brazil one of the most violent countries in the world for peasants. In light of this situation, the IACHR urges the state to adopt immediate urgent measures to guarantee the rights to life, integrity, and security of environmental and land defenders in Brazil. In particular, the state should strive to implement and provide appropriate financing for the National Program for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders.

As the IACHR stated in 2017, the work of environmental and land defenders is an essential part of building a democratic society and that they play a key role in achieving the rule of law and strengthening democracy.

As the IACHR has observed on other occasions, acts of violence and attacks against defenders in both rural and urban areas do not only affect the guarantees that apply to all human beings, they also undermine the fundamental role that defenders play in society, thus rendering all those who they seek to protect defenseless.

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. 027/18