Press Release

IACHR Expresses Concern about Acts of Violence against Rural Workers in Brazil

January 18, 2019

   Contact info

IACHR Press and Communication Office
Tel: +1 (202) 370-9000
[email protected]

   More on the IACHR
A+ A-

Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its concern about the acts of violence committed against rural workers that occurred on January 5th, 2019, at Hacienda Agropecuaria Bauru, municipality of Colniza, in the State of Mato Grosso, Brazil. The IACHR urges the Brazilian State to investigate these facts with due diligence and address the structural causes of these acts of violence, linked to access to land.

According to public information, on January 5th, 2019, members of the security forces of the Bauru Agricultural Treasury shot rural workers on their way to the Traíra River to get water. As a consequence of these events, one person identified as Eliseo Queres was killed and nine others were reportedly injured, three of whom were in a serious state. According to the Pastoral Land Commission (Comisión Pastoral de Tierra - CPT), the workers were linked to the Asociación Gleba Unión, municipality of Colniza, and to the Movimiento de Lucha por tierra 13 de octubre.

According to available information, during interrogations by the National Police, the guards stated that they reacted to the invasion of allegedly armed persons. However, the wounded persons stated that none of the victims carried firearms. The police also indicated that there were reasons to believe that the affected persons were not armed because only capsules of the same calibre as the weapons of the rural property guards were found. Available information indicates that the victims who were shot were camping 7 km from the hacienda, because they had been removed from the hacienda in a reinstatement of possession in November last year.

In this regard, human rights organizations stated that this case is an attempt of massacre against the almost 200 families that live on these lands in the municipality of Colniza; some of whom took possession and others who bought lots in which they live and are dedicated to animal husbandry and food production. Likewise, civil society organizations reported that the conflict area is known as Hacienda Magali and corresponds to land claimed by the families of rural workers in the framework of agrarian reform, and that at the same time some local politicians claim to have property rights over part of the area. Likewise, the organizations affirmed that the families complied with the judicial decision of the Agrarian Rod in Posessive Action and changed the local camp, without this having guaranteed their security.

In its preliminary observations of the IACHR's in loco visit to Brazil in November 2018, the Commission indicated that according to CPT records, among the victims of homicides during 2017, there were 21 landless rural workers; 11 corresponded to members of Quilombola communities and 6 corresponded to indigenous persons who were victims of violence due to conflicts related to land. In turn, the CPT noted that only 8 per cent of these murders had been investigated. As part of this visit, the IACHR received a wealth of information on violent forced evictions by the State and large landowner groups. In this regard, the Commission expressed its deep concern at the increase in rural violence and the serious problem faced by tens of thousands of rural families who are evicted from the lands they inhabit or occupy each year. Faced with this situation, the IACHR urged the State to urgently adopt all necessary measures to guarantee the right to life, integrity and security of defenders of the right to land and the environment in Brazil.

The IACHR has observed that evictions affect the most vulnerable and intensify inequality, social conflict, segregation and ghettoization. Forced evictions are often linked to a lack of legal certainty about their land, which is an essential element of the right to adequate housing. Therefore, the IACHR considers it appropriate to specify that evictions should only be carried out in compliance with international human rights norms and standards and the principles of exceptionality, legality, proportionality and suitability, with the legitimate aim of promoting social welfare and guaranteeing solutions for the evicted population that may consist of restitution and return, resettlement to a different or better land of equal quality and rehabilitation or just compensation.

Likewise, in the event that an eviction is necessary, the IACHR has indicated that States must provide protection for the dignity, life, and safety of those evicted, ensuring as a minimum access to adequate food in nutritional and cultural terms, drinking water and sanitation, housing with adequate conditions of habitability, among others. In addition, secure access to common property resources on which they previously depended must be guaranteed, including the possibility of collecting their goods, household goods, crops and harvests.

The Commission reiterates that absence, excessive delays in land demarcation and/or titling processes, as well as the interruption of these processes, can generate an environment conducive to the emergence of conflicts by allowing landowners or peasants to enter traditional or ancestral lands. It also contributes to the loss of traditional territories and lands; the eviction, internal displacement and eventual resettlement of affected persons; the destruction and pollution of the traditional environment; the depletion of resources necessary for the physical and cultural survival of affected communities; and their social and community disorganization. Consequently, the IACHR recommends addressing structural causes related to conflicts related to the struggle for land, with the strengthening of public police aimed at agrarian reform and programs for the prevention and attention to violence in the countryside.

Finally, the IACHR urges the Government of Brazil to investigate with due diligence the circumstances surrounding the events and other acts of violence against landless or settled peasants, in order to identify and punish those responsible and thus combat impunity and avoid the repetition of similar events. The Commission also urges the adoption of all necessary measures to guarantee the rights to life and integrity of the rural workers under its jurisdiction, in particular the members of the families who are located in the aforementioned Hacienda. Likewise, the IACHR emphasizes that in this type of situation, the Brazilian State has the obligation to adopt measures to prevent displacement, protect and provide assistance to persons evicted during their displacement, provide and facilitate humanitarian assistance and facilitate durable solutions.

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. 009/19