Brazil: Give a yellow card to restrictions on protests!

As Brazil comes to the spotlight ahead of the 2014 World Cup, Amnesty International is launching a new global campaign urging authorities to ensure security forces “play by the rules” during demonstrations expected to take place ahead and during the tournament. 

The campaign “No foul play, Brazil” asks individuals across the world to send yellow cards to Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and president of Congress, Renan Calheiros, urging them to respect everybody’s rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly during the World Cup. 

Large scale demonstrations have taken place in Brazil since June 2013, showing greater discontent with the poor quality of public services and its impact on thousands of people living in urban areas, among other concerns. Police have often responded using excessive and unnecessary force, including tear gas and rubber bullets. 

“Protesting is not a crime, it is a human right. Instead of using violence to crush protesters, the government and the security forces have the responsibility of ensuring people are safe. Any abuses must be promptly investigated, with those responsible brought to justice,” said Atila Roque, executive director of Amnesty International Brazil. 

“The Brazilian government must ensure the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly of everyone during the World Cup, that security forces are adequately trained and that the use of tear gas and rubber bullets is properly regulated.” 

Brazil has also used laws meant to target organized crime and militias in urban areas to crack down on peaceful protesters. New vaguely worded anti-terror laws are currently in the pipeline at the National Congress, which could be used to punish those who participate in peaceful demonstrations and threaten the right to freedom of expression.   

“Peaceful protests should never be seen as a threat. Instead, the authorities should engage in a constructive dialogue with those participating in demonstrations and never criminalize them,” said Atila Roque. 

The campaign includes a petition, which will be available at Signatures will be collected until 2 June and will be delivered to authorities in Brasilia on 5 June. 

“This campaign aims to engage football fans and those concerned with human rights around the world to cast a light on police abuses and freedom of expression in Brazil,” said Atila Roque. 

With only a few weeks to the start of the World Cup, which will take place in 12 cities across Brazil, federal and state authorities are taking special measures regarding public security and policing during the event. It is expected that thousands of people will take to the streets exercising their right to peaceful protest. 

With this campaign, Amnesty International joins other civil society organizations in Brazil to advocate for the rights of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly to be respected and protected. This includes by ensuring that new and existing legislation complies with international human rights law and standards, and that public security, including the policing of demonstrations, is carried out in line with these standards.