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Brazil must act now to avoid losing ground in fight against modern slavery – UN experts

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GENEVA (8 November 2017) – United Nations human rights experts* have today called on the Government of Brazil to take urgent action to halt measures that could reduce people’s protection against modern slavery and weaken corporate regulations.

“Brazil has often played a leadership role in the fight against modern slavery, so it is surprising and disappointing to see measures that could see the country lose ground on this front,” said the experts in a joint statement.

The UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary slavery, Urmila Bhoola, said a number of developments were causing concern, including ministerial order 1129, which narrows the definition of contemporary slavery and could reduce the number of victims detected.

“This order puts Brazil at risk of taking a step backward in the way it regulates businesses,” said Ms Bhoola. “It is essential that Brazil takes decisive action now to avoid undermining the anti-slavery measures that have been implemented over the last decade and which in turn weaken protection of the poor and excluded populations who are vulnerable to slavery.”

Surya Deva, who chairs the UN’s Working Group on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, also expressed concern that the Ministerial Order would set the country back in its battle against contemporary slavery.

“In the report on our visit to Brazil, presented to the Human Rights Council in June 2016, the Working Group acknowledged positive initiatives to combat modern slavery, such as the so-called “dirty list” that published information about employers found to be using slave labour, but also warned against another initiative to weaken the definition of slave labour (Senate bill No. 432/2013), said Mr Deva

“We are also concerned by other developments, including budget cuts to the labour inspectorate, which plays a key role in victim detection and slavery eradication.”

The experts welcomed the news that the Supreme Federal Court has ordered the temporary suspension of the ministerial order, and urged the Government to permanently reverse it. 

ENDS

*The UN experts: Ms Urmila Bhoola, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, and the Working Group on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, whose current members are: Mr Michael Addo, Mr Surya Deva (current chair), Mr Dante Pesce, Ms Anita Ramasastry (current vice-chair) and Mr  Pavel Sulyandziga.

The experts 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 human rights monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. The experts are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.

UN Human Rights country page - Brazil

For inquiries and media requests, please contact:
Eleanor Robb (+41 22 917 9800 / erobb@ohchr.org) or write to srslavery@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts please contact:
Bryan Wilson – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9826 / mediaconsultant2@ohchr.org

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