Brazil: Bolsonaro administration is transforming anti-human-rights rhetoric into action

On Tuesday 21 May, almost five months after the new government came to power, Amnesty International is launching the “Brazil for Everyone” campaign, in which it presents its main concerns about developments in the country since the start of the Jair Bolsonaro administration, and warns that the anti-human-rights rhetoric that has marked the president’s entire political career, including his 2018 election campaign, is beginning to be translated into concrete measures and actions that threaten and violate the human rights of all people in Brazil.

Jurema Werneck, executive director of Amnesty International Brazil, said: “In October 2018, just after the electoral process was completed, we warned that Bolsonaro’s positions posed a real risk to human rights in the country. We have followed his government closely and, unfortunately, we are beginning to see that our concerns were justified: the Bolsonaro administration has adopted measures that threaten the rights to life, health, freedom, land and territory of Brazilians who, whether they live in urban or rural areas, simply want to live their lives with dignity and free from fear. These are measures that could affect millions of people and, the way we see it, a fair country does not exclude its citizens. A fair Brazil is a Brazil for everyone”.

The measures and actions taken by Jair Bolsonaro’s government that have been identified by Amnesty International as sources of concern in its campaign launched this Tuesday are:

- The relaxation of laws on possessing and carrying firearms, which could increase the number of homicides in Brazil;

In October 2018, just after the electoral process was completed, we warned that Bolsonaro’s positions posed a real risk to human rights in the country. We have followed his government closely and, unfortunately, we are beginning to see that our concerns were justified.
Jurema Werneck, executive director of Amnesty International Brazil

- The new national drug policy, which takes a more punitive approach and infringes upon the right to health;

- The negative impact on the rights of indigenous peoples and Quilombolas;

- The attempt to interfere unduly in the work of civil society organisations operating in Brazil;

- Various provisions in the “anti-crime package” (such as the relaxation of the criteria for claiming legitimate self-defence to justify the use of force and firearms by the police);

- Measures infringing upon victims’ rights to truth, justice and reparations for the crimes under international law committed by the state during the military regime;

- Attacks on the independence and autonomy of the Inter-American Human Rights System;

- The use of anti-human-rights rhetoric by high-ranking officials, including the President himself, which could legitimise various human rights violations.

On 21 May, a delegation comprising the executive director of Amnesty International Brazil, Jurema Werneck, the Amnesty International Americas director, and Erika Guevara-Rosas, will visit Brasilia, where they will attempt to deliver to President Bolsonaro and other representatives of the government a letter setting out these concerns, together with recommendations for guaranteeing, promoting and protecting human rights in the country.

“Some of the measures adopted or proposed by this government over the past five months raise many concerns,” said Jurema Werneck. “They could increase the risk of homicides with firearms. They legitimise a public security policy based on the use of lethal force. They violate the rights of indigenous peoples and Quilombolas. They base drug policy on punitive and ineffective practices. They could increase monitoring of NGOs without justification. They deny victims of the military regime the right to truth, justice and reparations. All of this is accompanied by an overtly anti-human-rights rhetoric which only adds to Amnesty International’s concerns about the human rights situation in Brazil.”

Recently, we have seen political leaders in many countries campaigning with an overtly anti-human-rights agenda and rhetoric. In Brazil, this rhetoric is beginning to be turned into concrete actions.
Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International

 

“In 2017, Amnesty International showed that Brazil was one of the most dangerous countries in the Americas for human rights defenders, and Global Witness revealed that it was the riskiest in the world for defenders of human rights relating to land or the environment. President Jair Bolsonaro must take urgent measures to turn the situation around, comply with the international treaties Brazil has ratified, guarantee freedom of action for people and organisations working to creating a better society in the country, and abandon his anti-human-rights rhetoric, which legitimises violations against certain groups,” she added.

Erika Guevara-Rosas, is worried by the shrinking space for civil society across the world, with the adoption of many laws seeking to control or hamper the work of non-governmental organisations.

“Unfortunately, more and more countries are trying to control non-governmental organisations and to hinder the work of organisations that play a crucial role in drawing attention to errors, crimes and human rights violations committed by the state. We are concerned that the measures taken by the current Brazilian government on the monitoring of NGOs are steps in that same direction. The international community will continue to keep a close eye on Bolsonaro and his government’s compliance with their obligation to protect and guarantee human rights”.

This measure, like many others, comes in the context of a toxic, overtly anti-human-rights rhetoric. Erika Guevara-Rosas added: “Recently, we have seen political leaders in many countries campaigning with an overtly anti-human-rights agenda and rhetoric. In Brazil, this rhetoric is beginning to be turned into concrete actions. We therefore urge Bolsonaro to adopt firm and decisive measures to protect and guarantee human rights throughout the country and to ensure that the people who defend and campaign for such rights can do so without fear of reprisals”.

For more information or to arrange an interview, contact Duncan Tucker: duncan.tucker@amnesty.org