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Brazzil - Human Rights - May 2004

Brazil and Amnesty Clash

Brazil's National Indian Foundation disputes the figures presented
in an Amnesty International report about assassinations of Indians
in Brazil. The Funai call the report fallacious and acknowledges
only five murders caused by land disputes. The Indian Foundation
also accuses Amnesty of basing its conclusion on unreliable sources.

Luciana Vasconcelos


Picture Interruptions in the process of demarcating Indian territories are the major cause of violence practiced against Indians in Brazil, according to a report released on May 27 by Amnesty International, which reports 23 assassinations resulting from land disputes in 2003.

The Funai (Fundação Nacional do Índio—National Indian Foundation) and the Cimi (Conselho Missionário Indígena—Indigenous Missionary Council) agree with the diagnosis, but not with the number of Indians killed.

The Funai's press office informed that the figures presented in the Amnesty International report are fallacious. The Foundation acknowledges only five murders caused by land disputes and says that the Amnesty report lacks reliable sources.

The Cimi is one of the organizations responsible for the data included in the Amnesty report. The vice-president of the Commission, Saulo Feitosa, questioned the Funai's argument and disclosed that the number provided by the Cimi to Amnesty is larger: 31 deaths as a result of land disputes in 2003. "We back the number in the Amnesty report, because, of the 31 we denounced, some are still missing and cannot be classified as dead," he said.

350 Prospectors Disappeared

The Prospectors Union of the state of Rondônia, in northern Brazil, appeared before the Chamber of Deputies, in Brasília, on May 28, to denounce the disappearance of 350 prospectors on the Roosevelt Reserve, where a recent dispute between Cinta-Larga Indians and prospectors resulted in 29 deaths. According to union president Paulo Roberto Borges, the government must act quickly to prevent more deaths.

District Court Judge Leonel Pereira da Rocha told the hearing in the Chamber that 65 deaths on the reserve have been registered since 2001 and there are reports of a clandestine cemetery where 100 corpses are buried.

According to the judge, local courts have had difficulties in executing arrest warrants and interrogating Indians who live in the reserve. In his opinion, the National Indian Foundation (Funai) has gotten in the way of investigations.

Rocha calls for federal government intervention on the reserve. He claims that the Cinta-Larga Indians on the Roosevelt Indian Reserve are heavily armed. "As long as the Indians continue to be armed, the conflicts will continue," he affirmed.

Deputy Miguel de Souza, from the state of Roraima, filed a formal motion in the Chamber to form a Parliamentary Investigation Commission (CPI) to look into the matter and got the president of the Chamber, João Paulo Cunha, from São Paulo, to agree to the creation of a special Commission to analyze all projects dealing with the Indian question in the Chamber.

The Funai, the Environmental Protection Agency (Ibama) and the Federal Police are moving into action in a Caiapós Indian reservation area near São Felix do Xingu, in the state of Pará. The objective of the joint operation is to remove gold prospectors from the Indian area.

The regional director of the Funai, Megaron Txukarramãe, says that the Caiapós are irritated by the presence of the prospectors and that there may be conflict although an attempt to resolve the problem peacefully is underway. "This is not good for the prospectors, it is not good for us, so it is best for them to leave and not come back," he said.

There have been reports of prospectors in the area since January. A prospector camp was sighted on May 28 by a Funai-Federal Police helicopter, along with airstrips used by the invaders. Txukarramâe says he will ask the police to bomb the airstrip so it can no longer be used.

The Caiapós reservation dates from 1992. It is inhabited by some 4,000 Indians.

Torture and Justice

In a related subject, Minister Nilmário Miranda, of the Special Secretariat for Human Rights, declared in an official note that there is a growing number of court convictions, trials, and investigations involving police and government officials accused of committing the crime of torture.

"There are currently 240 people convicted by lower courts in Brazil of crimes of torture," he informed. In his opinion this is already an indication that the Brazilian judicial system is not unresponsive to the phenomenon.

The note was in response to a report issued in London by Amnesty International, condemning the existence of torture, assassinations committed by police, and violence against rural workers and Indians in Brazil.

The Minister admitted there is still a long way to go, but he argues that significant progress has been made in recent years. "The federalization of crimes against human rights, a measure in the Judicial Reform that gives federal courts jurisdiction to try and judge crimes against human rights, is already a victory," he said.

Another important item, in his opinion, is the homologation (final approval) of 82 percent of Indian territories in Brazil over the years. "In the year and a half since this Administration took office, 33 territories were homologated," he recalled.

Another measure that the federal government plans to adopt by 2006, through the Special Secretariat for Human Rights, is the Police Auditors program, in partnership with the European Community, which will contribute US$ 6.35 million (20 million reais) to the project.

The Auditors Offices are available for citizens to denounce crimes. The purpose of the project is the perfection of external mechanisms to control police violence by strengthening and disseminating the work done by Auditors Offices throughout Brazil.

Amnesty International considers the Disarmament Statute edited by the government to control the possession and sale of small arms a first step in the campaign against violence.

Luciana Vasconcelos works for Agência Brasil (AB), the official press agency of the Brazilian government. Comments are welcome at lia@radiobras.gov.br.
Translated from the Portuguese by David Silberstein.

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