Press Release

OHCHR, IACHR Condemn Murders of Indigenous Leaders in Maranhão, Brazil

December 9, 2019

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Washington, D.C. / Santiago – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) for South America condemn the murders of chiefs Firmino Praxede Guajajara, of the Cana Brava Indigenous Territory, and Raimundo Belnício Guajajara, of the Lagoa Comprida Indigenous Territory, both perpetrated on December 7, 2019 in the municipality of Jenipapo dos Vieiras, in the Brazilian state of Maranhão. According to the available reports, two other indigenous persons were seriously injured in these events.

The two Guajajara leaders were shot on the BR 226 road, as they returned from a meeting in the village of Coquinho with representatives of the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI, by its Portuguese acronym) and the firm Eletronorte.

Another human rights defender was murdered in the same area on November 1, 2019. Indigenous leader Paulino Guajajara was attacked by invaders during an ambush in the Arariboia Indigenous Territory.

Beyond expressing its condolences to the Guajajara peoples and to the families of the dead and injured leaders, the IACHR and the OHCHR urge the relevant authorities to conduct an immediate, full, and impartial investigation into these murders that leads their perpetrators to be held accountable, grants reparations to the families of the victims, and provides guarantees of non-recurrence.

The IACHR and the OHCHR remind the Brazilian State that it is responsible for ensuring comprehensive protection for the country’s indigenous peoples, addressing the structural causes of violence against them linked to the fight for land , and strengthening mechanisms to protect their leaders.

On International Human Rights Defenders Day, December 9, both organizations further remind the State of its responsibility to ensure that human rights defenders can do their work—which benefits society as a whole—freely and safely.

The IACHR and the OHCHR stress their willingness to support the adoption by the Brazilian State of measures aimed at ensuring compliance with its international obligations concerning indigenous peoples and human rights defenders.

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. 320/19