The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, expressed “serious concern” with the scenario of threats to indigenous populations and activists in Brazil during her speech at the opening of the Human Rights Council session this Monday (13) .
“In Brazil, I am alarmed by recent attacks against members of the Yanomami and Munduruku peoples by illegal miners in the Amazon. which is under consideration in the Chamber of Deputies — they are also a matter of serious concern,” said the former Chilean president.
Bachelet referred to bill 490/2007, which changes the rules and makes the demarcation of indigenous lands more difficult. Approved by the Chamber’s Committee on Constitution and Justice (CCJ) in June, the text is based on the thesis of the temporal framework, that is, it considers indigenous lands only those traditionally occupied by the Indians on the date of the promulgation of the Federal Constitution of 1988, in October 1988.
The constitutionality of the PL, however, is being judged by the STF (Supreme Federal Court), which should resume the analysis next Wednesday (15).
The UN human rights chief also urged Brazilian authorities to “reverse policies that negatively affect indigenous peoples” and abandon the idea of withdrawing from ILO (International Labor Organization) convention 169, adopted in 1989 in Geneva, in Switzerland, approved by the Brazilian Congress in 2002 and made law in 2004 by presidential decree.
The aforementioned rule provides that traditional communities —such as indigenous peoples and quilombolas— must be heard if projects or undertakings, such as large infrastructure works, affect their territories.
Bachelet also made a third observation about Brazil when criticizing the anti-terrorism bill. According to her, the text “includes excessively vague provisions that pose risks of abuse, especially against social activists and human rights defenders.”
The text, authored by Deputy Major Vitor Hugo (PSL-GO), proposes, among other topics, “repressing an act that, although not typified as terrorism”, is “potentially destructive in relation to some infrastructure”.
Entities such as the National Association of Public Prosecutors (ANPR) and the Brazilian Institute of Criminal Sciences (IBCCRIM) see the proposal as a risk factor for persecution of social movements and, if approved, as the inauguration of a “permanent state of exception “.
In Bachelet’s speech, Brazil was the first country to be cited after mentioning regions where “defenders of human and environmental rights are threatened, harassed and even killed, often with complete impunity.” An annual survey carried out by the NGO Global Witness and released this Sunday (12), places Brazil in fourth position in the ranking of countries that kill the most environmental and land rights defenders — the first three are Colombia, Mexico and the Philippines.
According to the NGO, more than 70% of the country’s cases took place in the Amazon, and half of them targeted indigenous peoples, whom Bachelet described on Monday as an “essential group for global efforts to address environmental degradation” due to their traditional knowledge and practices.
For the UN High Commissioner, the “triple planetary crisis”, formed by the combination of climate change, pollution and loss of nature, is at the root of the expansion of conflicts, tensions and structural inequalities that force populations into increasingly vulnerable situations.
“As these environmental threats intensify, they pose the greatest challenge to human rights in our era,” Bachelet said, calling on world leaders to act on the scenario described as “painfully clear.”