US’s HRF Gives Brazilian Woman Human Rights Award for Fighting Death Squads

Brazilian lawyer Sandra Carvalho Sandra Carvalho, a lawyer, sociologist and director of the non-governmental organization Global Justice, is the first Brazilian woman to be granted the Annual Human Rights Award from Human Rights First (HRF). The award was granted last week in New York.

The HRF Award has been awarded since 1986 to people who stand out in the "struggle for equality and freedom of thought, expression and religion in their societies."

Personalities that have been granted the award include former United States senator Edward Kennedy, Pakistani activists Asma Jahangir and Hina Jilani, both of whom are now high-level UN officials, and the former president of Ireland Mary Robinson, who was also the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

This year, the award was also granted to activist Principe Gabriel Gonzalez, who champions the rights of political prisoners in Colombia. The award-granting ceremony was held at Chelsea Piers, a convention center in New York City, United States.

The decision of awarding the Brazilian, according to the HRF, is an acknowledgement of Sandra's work in fighting police brutality and death squads, in the fight for agrarian reform, and the monitoring of abuse and crime committed within the prison system.

Another aspect of Sandra's work that was highlighted by the organization was her denunciation of the persecution and criminalizing of social and human rights movements in Brazil.

The HRF, a human rights organization founded in 1978, also called attention, upon granting the award, to the various threats made to Sandra since she began serving the cause in the 1990s, while she was still a social science student and a researcher at the Center for Studies on Violence (NEV) at the University of São Paulo (USP), as well as an intern at the Teotônio Vilela Human Rights Commission (CTV).

In 1992, Sandra was a member of the commission that entered the Carandiru prison shortly after the slaughtering of 111 inmates, and found the evidence that a massacre had taken place. Her work was crucial for preventing the tampering of the crime scene and guaranteeing the presence of a forensics team. From then on, Sandra specialized in public security, and geared her work at the NEV towards the reform of police and of the Brazilian prison system. By 1993, she was already the executive coordinator of the CTV.

Throughout the 1990s, in the city of São Paulo, Sandra Carvalho focused her work on monitoring crime and abuse committed by policemen. She reported on death squads, slaughtering, places used for extortion, torture and dumping of corpses. As the executive coordinator of the Human Rights Commission (CDH) of the Legislative Assembly of the City of São Paulo (Alesp), Sandra worked during the wave of rebellions at the Febem juvenile detention centers, in 1999. In that same year, she helped found Justiça Global (Global Justice).

Presently, Justiça Global operates in 13 different states. Apart from getting involved in matters of public security, the organization works to guarantee protection to human rights defenders who suffer threats and to criminalized or persecuted social movements.

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