Annual Report: Brazil 2010

May 28, 2010

Annual Report: Brazil 2010

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Head of state and government Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva
Death penalty abolitionist for ordinary crimes
Population 193.7 million
Life expectancy 72.2 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f) 33/25 per 1,000
Adult literacy 90 per cent

Reforms in public security, though limited, signalled the authorities' recognition of the long-term neglect of this area. However, law enforcement officers continued to use excessive force and to carry out extrajudicial executions and torture with impunity. The detention system was characterized by cruel, inhuman and degrading conditions in which torture was rife. Numerous law enforcement officials were charged with involvement in organized crime and death squads. Indigenous Peoples, landless workers and small rural communities continued to be threatened and attacked for defending their land rights. Human rights defenders and social activists were the targets of threats, politically motivated charges and attacks, despite the government's national programme for the protection of human rights defenders.


Nearing the end of his term in office, President Lula's government had helped enhance Brazil's role on the world stage. Brazil's policy of building a "southern" alliance to challenge long-standing "northern" power structures contributed to changes in global politics. However, at times this was achieved at the cost of supporting a broader human rights agenda, not least at the UN Human Rights Council.

At home, it was widely acknowledged that social investment by President Lula's government had helped reduce socio-economic inequalities.

In August, Brazil held its first ever national conference on public security in which civil society and law enforcement officers participated in developing government policy. In December, the government launched its third national human rights plan, which was largely welcomed by civil society. However, the plan faced staunch criticism from the military, the Catholic Church and the land lobby regarding, respectively, measures to tackle past human rights violations, sexual and reproductive rights and land rights. These posed serious threats to the protection of human rights in the country.

Impunity for past violations

One of the proposals of the national human rights plan was a promise to set up a truth and reconciliation commission to investigate abuses under the country's military government (1964-1985). Some NGOs and relatives of victims criticized the initial proposals as the commission's remit did not appear to include the prosecution of past violators. However, even this limited proposal was strongly criticized by the Brazilian military, with the Minister of Defence attempting to further weaken it.

Nevertheless, increasing challenges were made to the long-standing impunity for crimes committed during the military era. In August, the Supreme Court ruled that Uruguayan national Colonel Manuel Cordero Piacentini could be extradited to Argentina to face charges in connection with the enforced disappearance of Uruguayan and Argentine citizens and torture in the context of Operation Condor, a joint plan by Southern Cone military governments in the 1970s and 1980s to eliminate opponents.

A submission, by the Brazilian Bar Association and a leading judicial expert, to the Supreme Court challenging the interpretation of the country's Amnesty Law was pending at the end of the year.