PUBLIC AI Index: AMR 19/13/00
UA 134/00 Death threats/Fear for safety 25 May 2000
BRAZILBrother Henri de Rosiers, 70]
Anilson Russi ] human rights defenders
Ana de Sousa Pinto]and lawyers
Airton dos Reis Perreira ]
A priest has been named on a “death list” drawn up by a death squad believed
to operate with the acquiescence of the police. Amnesty International believes
that he and the other church mission staff named above are in grave danger.
Frei (Brother) Henri de Rosiers, works as a lawyer for the Commisão Pastoral
da Terra (CPT), Pastoral Land Commission, in Xinguara, in the south of Pará
State. This area has long been the focal point for the killings of land activists
by local landowners, which go unpunished for many years. The CPT, which is
administered by the Catholic church, has worked tirelessly against these
killings, and for the defence of land activists. Their work has brought them
into conflict with landowners and their supporters in positions of authority.
Brother Henri is the prosecution lawyer in the forthcoming trial of a powerful
local landowner, accused of ordering the killing of land activist Expedito
Ribeiro de Souza, president of the Sindicato de Trabalhadores Rurais (Union
of Rural Workers), who died on 2 February 1991 in Rio Maria, Pará. The trial
has become a symbol of the CPT’s conflict with the landowners and their fight
against impunity. The trial has raised fears that CPT staff and especially
Brother Henri may face retaliation.
The CPT learned of the “death-list” from four separate sources. The news follows
the killing of five people near the town of Xinguara, between 4 - 6 May 2000.
Some of those killed are believed to have appeared on the “death-list”. Two
of the corpses had their ears cut off, indicating a death squad killing on
The CPT has also campaigned against police torture, ill-treatment and subsequent
impunity in the south of Pará, and this has made them the target of death threats.
Their campaigns have led recently to increased denunciations, further calls
for intervention by the Federal and State authorities, visits by national and
foreign human rights delegations and wider media coverage of the situation.
However the Pará authorities have consistently failed to stop the mounting
violence in the region, and this has led the CPT and other organizations to
call on the Federal authorities to intervene.
Brother Henri was named on a similar “death-list” in 1994, together with Father
Ricardo Rezende and other CPT workers. The threats forced Father Ricardo Rezende
to leave the state.
Amnesty International has been working in collaboration with CPT members in
the south of Pará for many years. The CPT have been tireless in their efforts
to publicise the high levels of violence perpetrated with total impunity. They
have also supported many victims, and relatives of victims, through legal
proceedures that can last many years. Dedicated work by Amnesty International
members has helped the CPT to maintain pressure on both the Federal and State
authorities to investigate the violence perpetrated in the region and bring
those responsible to trial.