Report on Violence Against Human Rights Defenders in Brazil

Study with contributions from sociologist and jurist Maria Eugenia Trombini reveals extent

A study on violence against human rights defenders in Brazil reveals more than 1,000 cases occurred between 2019 to 2022. The report was compiled by the Brazilian human rights organisations "Terra de Direitos" and "Justiša Global". Dr Maria Eugenia Trombini assisted in the scientific analysis of the data. The results point to an intensification of conflicts, especially in connection with the exploitation of indigenous areas and environmental protection in the Amazon region, according to the researcher investigating organisational criminality and systemic corruption in Brazil at the Max Weber Institute for Sociology at Heidelberg University.

The report, "On the Frontline. Violence Against Human Rights Defenders", focuses on acts of violence intended to silence or stop people from claiming or defending documented human rights. News sources, reports, and internal investigations on cases already known to both human rights organisations were collected. According to Dr Trombini, the groups have been tackling these issues for more than 20 years. The survey highlights the violence against individual and collective defenders, such as indigenous or quilombola peoples - descendants of African peoples enslaved during Portuguese colonial rule in Brazil. The report differentiated between types of violence, such as threats, attacks, sexual harassment, criminalization and murders.

The survey revealed 1,171 cases of violence - 169 of which resulted in fatalities. Dr Trombini reports that the most common form of attacks were threats to intimidate human rights activists. The sociologist and jurist was responsible for processing the data and categorising the variables. She analysed the form of violence perpetrated against which groups and what connections there were between the victims, the types of human rights activism, as well as the geographic and temporal aspects of mapped episodes. Nearly half of all the incidents occurred in the Legal Amazon region. As the report shows, most of the cases of violence were against indigenous activists. There was a total of 346 attacks particularly related to the enforcement or protection of rights with respect to land use, and the protection of specific territories and the environment.

"During the tenure of Brazil’s then-president, indigenous territories were increasingly misappropriated for mining, deforestation, and agriculture between 2019 and 2022; at the same time, resentment against human rights activists was fomented to render their work more difficult", stresses Dr Trombini. That makes it all the more important to cast light on the impact of attacks and violence using well-founded, scientifically handled data, added the researcher. Among other things, she investigated power asymmetries in the region and how those fighting against illegal deforestation and climate change can be recognised and social justice promoted. Furthermore, she addressed human rights cases on behalf of local associations in Latin America.

The Brazilian human rights organizations "Terra de Direitos" and "Justiša Global" - authors of the report - have consultative status as non-governmental organisations with the United Nations Economic and Social Council.

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