Brazil: Authorities must not let the Pau D’Arco massacre go unpunished

 

The Brazilian authorities must solve the killing of 10 land rights activists by military and civil police officers in the city of Pau D’Arco, Amnesty International said today on the one-year anniversary of the massacre. The victims’ families continue to await justice, while the number of people murdered in land conflicts has soared in the past year, with impunity continuing to feed the cycle of violence.

“On 24 May 2017, Brazilian security forces gunned down ten rural workers on the Santa Lúcia farm in Pará state. It was one of the bloodiest days for rural workers in decades and it marked the start of an escalation in violence perpetrated by state officials. Over the past year in Brazil, at least 70 people were murdered in land conflicts,” said Jurema Werneck, Executive Director of Amnesty International Brazil.

It was one of the bloodiest days for rural workers in decades and it marked the start of an escalation in violence perpetrated by state officials. Over the past year in Brazil, at least 70 people were murdered in land conflicts
Jurema Werneck, Executive Director of Amnesty International Brazil

“Those who ordered the Pau D’Arco Massacre have still not been identified, and survivors and relatives of those killed continue to suffer threats and harassment. We join them today in calling for justice for these crimes. It is the duty of the Brazilian authorities to protect rural workers and to guarantee justice, truth and reparation to the families of the victims and survivors.”

José Vargas Junior, the lawyer for survivors and victims’ families, said: “Brazilian security forces have a false perception that a vulnerable group of people can be killed without any legal consequences, investigation and punishment.”

“Apart from the investigation, it is very important that the Brazilian authorities recognize and implement concrete policies to guarantee the protection of rural workers in Pau D’Arco. The delay in guaranteeing the safety of the survivors and workers currently under threat has already caused another death: that of the community leader Rosenildo Pereira de Almeida last July.”

The delay in guaranteeing the safety of the survivors and workers currently under threat has already caused another death: that of the community leader Rosenildo Pereira de Almeida last July
Jurema Werneck, Executive Director at Amnesty International Brazil

Background

To date, no one has been convicted over the killings, which occurred during a joint operation between military and civil police officers. The families of the victims and survivors continue to suffer constant threats and have not received reparation or protection from the state.

Seventeen civilian and military police officers were indicted by the Public Prosecutor’s office last year in connection with the killing. There are indications that local farmers may also have been involved.

A chief police officer and an investigator who participated in the operation were released on bail, under state protection, after agreeing to cooperate with prosecutors. In December 2017, the state court released the others 15 defendants who had been in pre-trial detention for three months, but Brazil’s Supreme Court ordered that they be returned to prison.

The investigation remains ongoing, with federal police issuing 12 search and seizure warrants in four cities earlier this month.

José Vargas Junior and Rivelino Zarpellon, another lawyer who has worked on the case, have been the targets of threats that intensified at the end of last year. Both were forced to leave the region due to the grave nature of the threats, which have continued through late April and early May 2018.