In 1986 Darci Frigo was accused of defamation
for exposing a federal representative who
to perform hard labor. In 1993 Frigo was threatened
by military police while representing
In 1999 he was attacked and detained by military
police in Curitiba. In early 2000 he received
three death threats.
Darci Frigo, 39, a Brazilian land rights activist won the 2001 RFK Human Rights Award, which was presented to him
last November 20. The award created in 1984, which celebrates the life of late Robert F. Kennedy honors, according to the
RFK Center for Human Rights "individuals who, at great risk, stand up to government oppression in the nonviolent pursuit
of respect for human rights." Frigo is the first Brazilian to receive the prize.
Darci Frigo, a former seminarian and passionate defender of the poor and the landless in Brazil, is an attorney and
human rights advocate with the Pastoral Land Commission, an ecumenical arm of the social ministry of the National Conference
of Brazilian Bishops. The Commission is the leading organization dedicated to human rights protection in rural Brazil. It
documents human rights violations, produces periodic reports and supports and assists landless workers in their struggle for
land rights. Through the Commission, Frigo has organized rural labor unions and represents squatters involved in land
disputes. A member of the National Network of Popular Lawyers, he is one of the most visible and effective human rights
defenders in the state of Paraná. He was born in Capinzal, in the neighboring state of Santa Catarina.
The human rights activist reports that a significant number of the several hundred people killed in rural conflicts in
the past several years in Brazil have been in the state of Paraná. From January 1997 to December 2000, 16 people have been
killed in land conflicts and 20 others survived attempts on their lives in this relatively small southern state. None of the
responsible persons in these deaths and attempted killings have been convicted. In the same period at least 36 death threats against
those involved in rural conflicts have been registered.
Before joining the Pastoral Land Commission, Frigo founded human rights centers in Ponta Grossa and in Curitiba,
both in the state of Paraná. In 1986 he participated in the founding assembly of the Brazilian Human Rights Movement. He
was invited to present a report on forced labor in Brazil to the United Nations in 1994 and helped prepare a report for UN’s
High Commissioner Mary Robinson’s visit to Brazil in May 2000. Last June he represented the Brazilian human rights
movement in a regional Latin American meeting on human rights defenders.
Since joining the Commission, Frigo has been threatened repeatedly. In 1986 he was accused of defamation for
exposing a federal representative who forced children to perform hard labor. In 1993 Frigo was threatened by military police
while representing a client. In 1999 he was attacked and detained by military police in Curitiba. In early 2000 he received three
death threats which led him to request protection measures from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. In spite of
all efforts to stop his work, Frigo continues his fight on behalf of the landless poor.
Is the prize important for his work? Frigo answered this question to a reporter from ezine "No.": "The prize is
important because it gets international visibility to Brazilian agrarian question. The recognizance by the RFK Center for Human
Rights is going to open many doors so that we will be able to ask the support of international organizations for our projects. At
the same time it will help us maintain the agrarian reform in the Brazilian political agenda."
Translated by Friends of the MST volunteer Richard Paige.