Brazil’s National Program for Human Rights (PNDH-3) announced last week has suffered a barrage of criticism. Many of the critics say they were not consulted about the document. But the deputy secretary at the Special Secretariat for Human Rights, Rogerio Sottili, explains that the program was drawn up with the active participation of representatives of society, including a number of ministers.
In an interview with Brazil’s government news agency, Agência Brasil, Sottili says there were two years of debates, the last year involving many ministries. Sottili declared that complaints by the minister of Agriculture, Reinhold Stephanes, that he did not participate in writing the document are false. “Minister Stephanes may just be uninformed.” he said.
Here is a summary of the highlights of what Sottili had to say:
* We listened to the Ministry of Agriculture. They were heard and we received many answers to our queries from secretaries and executive secretaries there. They actually made suggestions for the program
* The reaction to the program by landowners was strange But, in a way it is understandable because these are people who have always had difficulties talking about human rights. They have never given much importance to the matter and when they are faced with a program which attempts to systematize state policy regarding human rights their reaction is surprise.
* One point in the program that stirred up heated debate is the creation of so-called Reconciliation Chambers for land conflict cases. There is a positive and a negative side to this discussion. On the positive side we have people all over the country studying, discussing and coming to conclusions about human rights. This is extremely pleasing, it is very democratic.
On the negative side there is a bias, some people have a negative view of human rights. But in the end it is all part of the democratic process, a process that we want to take advantage of as much as possible and make Brazil take an important step in the direction of human rights.
* This conflict mediation tool existed in generic form back in the Fernando Henrique Cardoso government (a document known as PNDH-2). What is going on here is a political detour in light of the election that is coming up. There is an attempt to wear down the government, attacking it on the issue of human rights.
* The fact is that mediation is the most modern and powerful tool that the Brazilian state has to deal with the problem of violence. In 2003 there were 49 deaths because of land conflicts. Last year there was one.
* Mediation has been recognized by the National Council of Justice, which is presided over by Chief Justice Gilmar Mendes, as so important that the council is actually running a campaign in favor of its use. In December, Mendes, the minister of Agrarian Reform and Settlement, Rolf Hachbart, and the national agrarian ombudsman, José da Silva Filho, were in Marabá, in the state of Pará, one of the regions in the country with a very high level of land conflict, to promote the idea of mediation as a tool for resolving land conflict.
* The PNDH-3 is truly innovative. It is not a project that will be run by the Special Secretariat for Human Rights (SEDH). That is an error, a misunderstanding. This is a government program, a State plan, which is not going to be executed during the Lula administration, but during other governments in the future. This PNDH-3 is a statement of government policy.
* Education is a human right, so the ministry of Education is involved. Healthcare is a human right. It is essential to understand what we are talking about here. This is a program where 31 ministries are involved in specific action plans. The program is broad because human rights are broad by nature. They encompass civil rights, political rights, economic rights and environmental rights, as well.
* With regard to the creation of a Truth Commission, it must be understood that it does not infringe on the 1979 Amnesty Law. Anyone who says it does is distorting the truth, dulling a brilliant debate. As for the jurisdiction of the commission, that will be defined in the bill that is sent to Congress. What has been decided is that the commission will be established, within the law, within the limits of the Constitution.
* It is also perfectly natural for president Lula, in his wisdom, in the calm manner that is so normal for him, to handle any dissension in the cabinet. That will not be any problem for him.