• Campaigns

Brazil : Death threats/Fear for safety

, Index number: AMR 19/013/2000

Brother Henri de Rosiers, 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, Anilson Russi, Ana de Sousa Pinto and Airton dos Reis Perreira, are in grave danger.

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
commission.
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.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION
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.
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RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/telexes/faxes/express/airmail
letters in Portuguese or your own language:
- calling for an immediate investigation into the alleged “death-list” naming
Frei Henri and other people in Xinguara;
- expressing concern at apparent death squad activity in the south of Pará
and calling for a full investigation;
- expressing concern at the high level of violence in the south of Pará and
allegations that police are at best acquiescent, if not directly involved in
torture and killings;
- noting the failure of the Pará state authorities to deal with the violence
over many years;
- reminding the federal authorities of their duty to ensure that human rights
violations are investigated and punished, wherever they occur in Brazil;
- urging the Brazilian government to adhere to its obligations regarding human
rights defenders, as laid out in the UN Declaration on the Right and
Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and
Protect Universally Recognised Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms adopted
on 9 December 1998, and the Organization of American States Human Rights
Defenders in the Americas resolution adopted on 7 June 1999 [AG/RES. 1671
(XXIX-O/99)].
APPEALS TO:
Governor Pará State
Exmo. Sr. Governador do
Estado do Pará
Sr. Almir José de Oliveira Gabriel
Palácio dos Despachos
Rod. Montenegro KM 9
66823-010
Belém - PA
Brazil
Telex: 038 91 1012 gopa br
Fax: + 55 91 248 0133
Salutation:Vossa Excelência/Your Excellency
Minister of Justice
Exmo. Sr. Ministro da Justiça
do Brasil
Dr. José Gregori [4/00]
Ministério da Justiça
Esplanada dos Ministérios, Bloco 23
CEP 70064-900
Brasília - DF
Brazil
Fax: + 55 61 224 2448/322 6817
Salutation:Vossa Excelência/Your Excellency
COPIES TO:
Pastoral Land Commission
Commissão Pastoral da Terra
Rua Pau Brasil 40
Caixa Postal 57
Xinguara, 68555-000, Pará
Brazil
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and to diplomatic representatives of Brazil accredited to your country.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat,
or your section office, if sending appeals after 6 July 2000.

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