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Much remains to be done to respect the rights of indigenous peoples in Brazil – UN expert

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GENEVA (21 March 2016) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, commended the Government of Brazil for a number of measures and initiatives it has taken to ensure the realization of indigenous peoples’ rights, but stressed that more much needs to be done to fully respect their rights.

“The pursuit of economic interests in a manner that further subordinates the rights of indigenous peoples creates a potential risk of ethnocidal effects that cannot be overlooked nor underestimated,” Ms. Tauli-Corpuz warned at the end of an eleven-day official visit* to Brazil, where she travelled to Brasilia and to the States of Mato Grosso Do Sul, Bahia and Pará.

“In the past, Brazil has been a world leader in the area of demarcation of indigenous peoples’ territories,” the expert said recalling that her mission was a follow up to the 2008 visit of her predecessor, James Anaya. “However, in the eight years following that visit, there has been an absence of progress in relation to the resolution of long standing issues of key concern to indigenous peoples and to the implementation of the his recommendations.”

For Ms. Tauli-Corpuz a matter of most pressing concern is the extent of documented and reported attacks on indigenous peoples. In 2007, 92 indigenous leaders were killed, whereas by 2014 that number increased to 138 killings, with Mato Grosso Do Sul being the state with the highest number of deaths. The expert noted that attacks and killings frequently constitute reprisals in contexts where indigenous peoples reoccupy ancestral lands following long periods waiting for the completion of demarcation processes.

“I find it extremely alarming that a series of these attacks, involving shootings and leading to the injury of indigenous peoples in the communities of Kurusu Amba, Dourados and Taquara in Mato Grosso Do Sul, followed my visits to these areas, she said “I decry these attacks and call on the Government to put an end to these human rights violations, investigate and bring their masterminds and perpetrators to justice.”

In that regard, the Special Rapporteur praised some of the measures adopted by the Brazilian authorities such as the constructive and pro-active role of the National Indian Foundation of Brazil (FUNAI) and the Federal public prosecutors despite operating in difficult circumstances, as well as the establishment of an internationally recognized legal and administrative framework for demarcation.

She also noted a series of decisions by the Federal Supreme Court to prevent evictions of indigenous peoples; the organization of the first National Conference on Indigenous Policy in 2015; and the establishment of the National Council for Indigenous Policy.

However, Ms. Tauli-Corpuz highlighted some of the main human rights challenges facing many indigenous peoples in Brazil, which include proposals for constitutional amendment PEC215 and other legislation which undermines their rights to lands, territories and resources. The expert also commented on the misinterpretation of article 231 and 232 of the Constitution in the Raposa Serra do Sol decision from the part of the Judiciary.

Similarly, the expert drew attention to the introduction of a temporal framework and imposition of constraints on indigenous peoples’ rights to possess and control their lands and natural resources; and the stalling of demarcation processes, including 20 demarcations pending Presidential ratification, such as that for Cachoeira Seca in the state of Pará.

During her official visit to Brazil, Ms. Tauli-Corpuz, met with Government and UN officials, a wide range of civil society and human rights organizations and other non-State actors, including those working on indigenous rights. She also visited indigenous communities to hear directly from them about their issues and concerns.

The Special Rapporteur will present a comprehensive report containing her findings and recommendations to the Brazilian Government and the UN Human Rights Council in September 2016.

(*) Read the full end-of-mission statement: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=18498&LangID=E

The Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Ms. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz (Philippines), is a human rights activist working on indigenous peoples’ rights. Her work for more than three decades has been focused on movement building among indigenous peoples and also among women, and she has worked as an educator-trainer on human rights, development and indigenous peoples in various contexts. She is a member of the Kankana-ey, Igorot indigenous peoples in the Cordillera Region in the Philippines. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/IPeoples/SRIndigenousPeoples/Pages/SRIPeoplesIndex.aspx

Read the 2008 report on Brazil by the former Special Rapporteur (A/HRC/12/34/Add.2):  http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/IPeoples/SRIndigenousPeoples/Pages/CountryReports.aspx

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

See the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/IPeoples/Pages/Declaration.aspx

For further information and media requests, please contact Ms. Hee-Kyong Yoo (+41 22 917 97 23 / hyoo@ohchr.org), Ms. Christine Evans (+41 22 917 9197 / cevans@ohchr.org) or write to indigenous@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, OHCHR Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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