Federative Republic of Brazil
Head of state and government Dilma Rousseff
Levels of violent crime remained high. The authorities frequently responded with excessive force and torture. Young black men continued to make up a disproportionate number of homicide victims. Torture and other ill-treatment were reported in the detention system, which was characterized by cruel, inhuman and degrading conditions. Rural workers and Indigenous Peoples and Quilombola communities (descendants of runaway slaves) suffered intimidation and attacks. Forced evictions in both urban and rural settings remained a serious concern.
The socio-economic situation continued to improve, with more people moving out of extreme poverty. Nevertheless, the homes and livelihoods of Indigenous Peoples, landless rural workers, fishermen and urban slum dwellers continued to be threatened by development projects.
In November, Brazil was re-elected to the UN Human Rights Council. Brazil criticized violations in the Syrian armed conflict, but abstained over a resolution in the General Assembly expressing concern over the human rights situation in Iran.
In May, the Chamber of Deputies passed a constitutional amendment that allows for the confiscation of lands where slave labour is found to be used. The reform was before the Senate awaiting approval at the end of the year.
In May 2012, the National Truth Commission was established by President Dilma Rousseff. The Commission is mandated to investigate human rights violations from 1946 to 1988. The Commission began hearing testimonies and investigating records during the year, although some concern was expressed at the use of some in camera hearings. The establishment of the National Truth Commission led to the creation of several truth commissions at the state level, for example in the states of Pernambuco, Rio Grande do Sul and São Paulo. However, concerns remained about the ability to address impunity for crimes against humanity while the 1979 Amnesty Law remained in place; the Amnesty Law had been declared “null and void” by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in 2010.
Federal prosecutors initiated criminal prosecutions of members of the security services accused of kidnappings during the military governments (1964-1985), arguing that it was a “continuous crime” and thus not covered by the Amnesty Law.
States continued to adopt repressive and discriminatory policing methods in the face of armed criminal violence. Tens of thousands of people were killed in criminal violence, with young black men disproportionately targeted, especially in the north and north-east of the country.
The number of killings fell in some states, often as a consequence of localized public security projects. For example, in Rio de Janeiro, the Police Pacification Units project expanded to new favelas and contributed to a reduction in homicide rates.
In January, the federal government cut by almost half the funding for its national public security project (Programa Nacional de Segurança Pública com Cidadania, PRONASCI). Although the government did promise some important projects to ensure greater protection, such as the plan to prevent violence against black youth (known as “Living Youth”), there were concerns that these were not effectively funded.
In Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo states, killings by police officers continued to be registered as “acts of resistance” or “resistance followed by death”. Few, if any, such cases were effectively investigated despite evidence that they involved excessive use of force and possible extrajudicial executions. The National Human Rights Council passed a resolution in November calling on all states to stop registering police killings as “acts of resistance” or “resistance followed by death”. The resolution further called for all killings by police to be investigated, for forensic evidence to be safeguarded and for the numbers of killings by police to be published regularly. The resolution was under consideration by the São Paulo state government at the end of the year, with a view to introducing changes to the designation of killings by police and measures to preserve crime scenes in 2013.