Annual Report: Brazil 2011

May 28, 2011

Annual Report: Brazil 2011

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  • In the municipality of São Vicente de Férrer, Maranhão state, local farmers repeatedly threatened the Charco community, which was campaigning to have its land recognized as a Quilombola settlement. On 30 October, community leader Flaviano Pinto Neto was shot seven times in the head. Another community leader, Manoel Santana Costa, received repeated death threats, as did 20 fellow members of the community.

Workers' rights

Degrading labour conditions persisted across Brazil. In May, the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery visited Brazil. She concluded that forced labour and "slave-like" practices were most prevalent in the cattle sector, followed by sugar cane plantations. She urged the federal authorities to pass a constitutional amendment that would allow for the expropriation of land where forced labour is used. The amendment, which was proposed in 1999, remained stalled in Congress at the end of the year.

Human rights defenders

By the end of the year the National Programme for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders had expanded its operations to six states. However, inconsistent funding and a lack of co-ordination between state and federal authorities meant that many human rights defenders included in the programme remained without protection.

  • In May, Josilmar Macário dos Santos was shot at as he drove his taxi along a viaduct in the neighbourhood of Catumbi, in Rio de Janeiro city. At the time of the attack, hearings were taking place in the case against four police officers accused of killing six young men, including Josilmar Macário dos Santos' brother, Josenildo dos Santos. Although included in the National Programme, Josilmar Macário dos Santos did not receive adequate protection.
  • Alexandre Anderson de Souza, President of a fishermen's association in Magé, Rio de Janeiro state, received a series of death threats related to his work as a community leader. He was involved in protests against the environmental impact of the construction of a pipeline in the bay where the community fishes.


Brazil continued to lag behind the rest of the region in its response to grave human rights violations committed during the military era. In April, the Supreme Court ruled against a challenge to interpretations of the 1979 Amnesty Law. Current interpretations have resulted in impunity for officers accused of grave human rights violations including torture, rape and enforced disappearance during Brazil's military dictatorship (1964-85).

  • In November, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled that Brazil was responsible for the enforced disappearance of 62 guerrillas in Pará state between 1970 and 1972. The court found that Brazil had violated the right to justice by not adequately investigating the cases and withholding information, and that the 1979 Amnesty Law runs counter to Brazil's obligations under international law and cannot be used to block prosecutions in cases of grave human rights violations.

By the end of the year, President Lula had not fully complied with a 2009 ruling of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ordering that compensation be paid to the family of landless worker Sétimo Garibaldi. According to witnesses, Sétimo Garibaldi was shot dead by hooded gunmen on the Fazenda São Francisco, in Querência do Norte in the north-east of Paraná state, in November 1998.