Date: Fri, 19 Dec 97 13:29:46 CST
From: John Kilcrann <>
Subject: News From Brazil
Article: 24362

Two international reports criticize Brazil's human rights efforts

SEJUP (Servico Brasileiro de Justica e Paz), News from Brazil, No. 296, 18 December 1997

In recent days the publication of two international reports on the human rights situation in Brazil and the efforts of the government to bring about improvements in this area show that much still needs to be done. Human Rights Watch Americas had a Brazilian launching of their 1997 international report in Porto Alegre, State of Rio Grande do Sul, on December 05. On December 08, the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights of the Organization of American States also published a report on the situation of human rights in Brazil.

The section of the Human Rights Watch Americas report which deals with Brazil notes that during 1997 the violation of human rights in the country continued to be serious and varied. An example cited is police violence in Diadema (State of Sao Paulo), the city of Rio de Janeiro, and in various parts of the States of Minas Gerais and Paraiba. The National Congress also received criticisms in the report because since the launching of the National Human Rights' Plan on May 13, 1996, various law proposals (including the reformation of the police forces) which need to be discussed and approved by Congress have not received attention there. The report accused the court system of being guilty of an unhappy manipulation in the condemnation of landless leader Jose Rainha Junior for what many human rights groups describe as trumped-up charges of assassination.

According to the Human Rights Watch America report the conditions in Brazilian prisons offend international agreements because of overcrowding, unhealthy conditions in which the prisoners are held as well as the lack of access to work, education, leisure and other benefits. The report calls special attention to conditions in the police stations where many prisoners are held over long periods. There the prisoners' conditions are much worse than in the prisons. It also recalls that as yet nobody has been punished for the police massacre of 111 prisoners in the Carandiru prison in the city of Sao Paulo in 1992. In this instance even when the case was transferred to the common courts from the military courts impunity continues to be the rule commented the report. Special criticism was also meted out to judge Sandra de Santis Mello who lessened the accusation against four middle class youth of Brasilia who caused the death of Pataxo Indian Galdino Jesus de Santos on April 20 last when they set him alight in Brasilia.

In an article in the Folha de Sao Paulo on December 09, the Brazilian director of Human Rights Watch Americas, James Cavallaro, commented that Brazil is one of the countries which has the most serious situation of police brutality in the Americas. However the situation of many authorities with regards human rights is antagonistic. On one hand the Government of the State of Sao Paulo has established a Police Ombuds' Office and Proar (Program to accompany police who have been involved in situations of high risk). The latter program requires that police who have been involved in shoot-outs where deaths took place be removed, at least temporarily, from work on the streets. On the other hand, the State Secretariat for Public Security in Rio de Janeiro promotes a policy of giving prizes and promotion to police for activities during which the circumstances of deaths of suspects are not examined. One result is that there has been an increase in the number of civilian deaths caused by police in the city of Rio de Janeiro. This has increased from an average of 16 per month before the present State Secretary for Security took office in May of 1995 to 32 per month a year later.

Between May 1995 and February 1996 statistics show that the number of civilians killed by the police in Rio de Janeiro was three times greater than the number of those injured in such confrontations. This according to human rights organizations is a clear indication that the police are in fact executing many of the victims.

Mr. Cavallaro in his Folha article also referred to land conflicts which he describes asbecoming more and more frequent, resulting in violence and in the deaths of at least 25 rural workers between January and October On the other hand he describes asimportant advances to reduce rural violence and slaverythe judgment and condemnation during the last year of three ranchers who planned the assassination in 1986 of Father Josimo Moraes Tavares, regional Director of the Land Pastoral Commission (CPT) in Imperatriz, State of Maranhao. Also mentioned as positive was the recent exappropriation of the Flor da Mata ranch, in the State of Pernambuco as punishment for slave labor carried out on the ranch by the owner.

The Inter-American Commission Report on Human Rights in Brazil published on December 09 commented that the areas of the greatest violation of human rights .... are those in which the more vulnerable sectors of the Brazilian population are attacked: rural workers.., impoverished youth..., and indigenous peoples.. President Fernando Henrique Cardoso authorized the members of the Commission to prepare the report in Brazil in 1995, six years after it had requested permission to carry out this project.

Without wishing to minimize the (human rights) advances of the present government, the Commission believes that the Brazilian state has not yet offered the necessary guarantees to important sectors of the Brazilian population in a manner to ensure their human rights, let it be through the preventative institutions such as the police and the courts; or through institutional efforts geared to minimize the discriminatory inequality of socio-economic and cultural opportunitiescommented the report.

The Commission report recommends that social inequalities should be eliminatedas soon as possible because they provokeother violations of human rights, since those who are discriminated against rebel because of the injustice and are repressed illegally. Besides, such inequalities provoke situations of generalized illegality, such as favelas (shanty-towns) controlled by drug traffickers The court system was also criticized for its' moroseness, complex and unnecessary formalisms as well as institutional problems. The military court system merited special criticism in the report -it is not necessary and it contributes to the existence of impunity The report recommends that the court system be simplified and that measures be put in place to speed it up. It calls for the full implementation of the National Human Rights Plan and for an agrarian reform.

President Fernando Henrique Cardoso agreed with the criticisms of the report. In a speech to commemorate the 49th. anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10 he commentedWe cannot act as in the past, pretending that such situations do not exist. What we cannot do any more is agree to the acceptance, not only of the authorities, but also of ordinary citizens of violence and injustice ... injustice cannot be suppressed by (government) decrees