In this chapter, the Commission is continuing its practice of following
up on its reports on the human rights situation in member States.
This practice is based on the functions of the IACHR, the primary OAS
agency for the protection and promotion of human rights, as stipulated in
Articles 41(c) and (d) of the American Convention, and in accordance with
Articles 18(c) and (d) of the Statute and 63(h) of the Regulations of the
The initiative to evaluate compliance with the recommendations made in
these reports in a separate chapter of the IACHR’s Annual Report was first
implemented in 1998, with the inclusion of a chapter entitled “Follow-up
Report on Compliance by the Republic of Ecuador with the recommendations offered
by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in its 1997 Report on the
Situation of Human Rights in Ecuador.”
The reports in this chapter are included for the purpose of assessing the
measures adopted to comply with the recommendations formulated by the IACHR in
its reports on the human rights situation in Brazil (1997), Mexico (1998), and
Colombia (1999). To this end, the
three states in question were asked to provide all the relevant information
pertaining to the above-mentioned provisions.
In addition to the official information received by the Commission or
publicly available, it also used documents and reports from universal
organizations for the protection of human rights, and from organizations of
civil society and the media.
In its “Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Brazil,”
published in December 1997, the Commission made a series of recommendations that
addressed social and economic rights; the judicial system; police violence and
impunity; prison conditions; the rights of the child, indigenous people and
rural workers; the status of women; and racial discrimination. Generally
speaking the recommendations of the Commission all reaffirmed the objectives and
strategies of the National Human Rights Program (PNDH) adopted in 1996 after a
broad consultation process.
In following up on those recommendations, the Commission requested the
Government on October 19, 1999, to furnish it with information on compliance
therewith, in order to have the benefit of its perspective on the subject.
By note of February 11, 2000, in reply to the above note, the Government,
by way of information, sent the First National Report on Human Rights
(hereinafter the “First National Report”) prepared by the Center for Studies
on Violence of the University of São Paulo at the request of the State
Secretariat for Human Rights of the Ministry of Justice of Brazil. The
Commission is appreciative that the response of the Government of Brazil to the
above request is a nationwide study carried out by an impartial entity of
recognized repute. In producing
this follow-up report the Commission has also used other sources, including
official government documents and material from human rights organizations.
During its 106º period of sessions the IACHR issued its “Draft
Follow-up Report” and on March 10, 2000 it transmitted a copy to the State
with a 30 day period to present its observations.
The IACHR did not receive any comment from the Government of Brazil and
approved this version to be published on April 13, 2000.
RECOGNITION OF THE CONTENTIOUS JURISDICTION OF THE INTER-AMERICAN COURT
OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND OTHER LEGISLATIVE DECISIONS
First of all the Commission wishes to highlight the
fact that the State of Brazil deposited on December 10, 1998, in accordance with
Article 62 of the American Convention on Human Rights, its instrument of
recognition of the compulsory contentious jurisdiction of the Inter-American
Court of Human Rights on all matters
relating to the interpretation or application of the Convention for events that
occur as from that date. That instrument was deposited following approval by the
National Congress of the request submitted by the Executive Branch through
Legislative Decree Nº 89 of December 3, 1998. Aside from this adherence to the
competence of the Inter-American Court, Brazil also ratified a large number of
international instruments for protection of human rights, and supported the
installation of a permanent, effective, competent, and autonomous International
As the First National Report
mentions, Brazil also adopted laws that broaden the mechanisms for defense of
human rights. That Report names, in particular, the following national laws:
Law 9.140/95, which recognizes as deceased, persons who disappeared as a
result of participation, or of being charged with participation, in political
activities during the period from September 2, 1961 to August 15, 1979 (military
Law 9.299/96, which transfers from the military justice system to the
common justice system jurisdiction over intentional crimes against life
committed by the “military” police;
Law 9.437/97, which makes it a crime to carry weapons illegally and
creates the National Weapons System (SINARM);
Law 9.459/, which categorizes the crimes of discrimination based on
ethnic group, religion or national origin;
Law 9.474/97 which establishes the Refugees Statute;
Law 9.534/97, which provides free registration of births and deaths with
the civil authorities;
Law 9.714/98 which introduces eight new types of sentences as
alternatives to imprisonment;
Supplementary Law 88/96, which establishes a summary process for property
transfer procedures in connection with agrarian reform;
Supplementary Law 93/98 which creates the Land Bank;
Law 9503/97, which approves the Vehicular Traffic Code.
The Commission, as specified in this follow-up report and the conclusions
thereto, considers that the State has adopted measures that coincide with the
recommendations in its Report of 1997. Those measures have begun to create an
infrastructure capable of dealing with and combating human rights violations.
However, those efforts have yet to have a decisive impact. Indeed, as the
analysis that follows shows, there has been a relative and partial decline in
the level of human rights violations; nevertheless serious violations still
occur and impunity continues to be the rule. The institutions that promote and
defend human rights, as well as those that prevent and punish their violation,
are still too weak to deal with either the magnitude of violations and the power
that the violators wield (in particular, certain sectors of the police) or with
the ineffectiveness of the judicial system.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR REDUCING POLICE VIOLENCE AND IMPUNITY
Excessive violence by the civil and “military
police” in each state, as well as the impunity of those excesses as a result
of the inefficiency of judicial investigations, was one of the main issues
addressed by the recommendations contained in the Report of the IACHR in 1997.
The aim of those recommendations was to establish external civil control
over which “military” police, who, out of a misplaced esprit
de corps obstructed investigations to verify abuses committed by their
agents. An alarming display of that esprit
de corps took place in June 1997, when, as a result of a protest allegedly
on labor-related grounds, various police corps rebelled de
facto against the constitutional authorities by illegally suspending their
activities and making it necessary to mobilize the Army to take charge of
maintaining law and order in many states of the Union.
The Commission’s recommendations focus on measures
designed to prevent and punish police excesses committed during the use of
force. First the Commission
recommended conferring on the ordinary justice system jurisdiction over crimes
committed by the police and approving a draft law put forward to that end.
The above has not been accomplished. Although Law 9688, known as the
Bicudo Law, was passed in 1996--the original bill of which complied with the
Commission’s recommendation in this area--the Congress substantively reduced
its scope, by conferring on the common courts only jurisdiction over cases of
intentional murder committed by the “military” police. These crimes,
however, continue to be investigated by the military justice system.
Death squads with police involvement were also the
subject of a recommendation by the Commission, which urged that they be
investigated, dismantled and their members and leaders punished.
There has been a reduction in the activities of these “death squads”
since the creation of the Committee for the Defense of the Individual under the
National Human Rights Secretariat. However, jurisdictional restrictions and
limited resources have curbed its impact in many states where massacres and
other criminal activities attributed to such groups continue. A report on death
squads issued by the Committee for Human Rights of the Federal Chamber of
Deputies in June highlighted death squad activity with police involvement in the
states of Bahia, Rio Grande do Norte, Mato Grosso do Sul, Mato Grosso, Amazonas,
Para, Paraiba, Ceara, Espirito Santo, and Acre. The report indicated that death
squad activity appears to be declining except in Bahia.
In Acre, in September 1997, the former president of the
judiciary reported the existence of three death squads made up of “military”
and civil police officers and taxi drivers, one of them led by the former Chief
of Police and ex-state congressman Hildebrando Pascoal.
This was confirmed by the commission appointed by the Human Rights
Defense Council (a federal entity), which concluded that the state police were
incapable of investigating themselves. Due
to lack of funds it was not possible to send a federal government delegation to
investigate the death squads in Acre.
The President of the Supreme Court of Acre, with the assistance of
federal officers, reopened 110 cases of murder and torture that had been
suspended. Of those cases, 30
concerned death squads with the involvement of state “military” police
According to an investigation by the Committee for
Human Rights of the Federal Chamber of Deputies, a copy of whose report was sent
to the IACHR, Recóncavo da Bahia, in Bahia state, is where death squads operate
most brazenly in Brazil. Executions
attributable to death squads numbered 63 for the first four months of the year,
compared with 104 for all of 1998, and 93 in 1997.
The area where Matto Grosso do Sul borders on Paraguay and Bolivia is
also notorious for death squad activity. The
death squads there are composed of gunmen and police officers, allegedly hired
by “fazendeiros (ranchers), traders and politicians.” The killings are
connected with drug trafficking, arms smuggling, robberies and revenge.
Also infamous are the death squads in Espirito Santo.
In August the Governor of Espirito Santo (the state with the highest rate
of homicide in Brazil) stated publicly that death squad activity involving the
police contributed significantly to the level of violence in the state. A state police investigation and a state parliamentary
committee of inquiry confirmed that statement, and reported that Jose Carlos
Gratz, the very president of the state assembly, had links to organized crime in
In Pernambuco the number of homicides attributed to those groups rose
from 18 to 48 between 1997 and 1998, while over the same period the homicides
ascribed to individual police officers went down from 48 to 28.
The Commission concludes that this alarming practice
remains active in many states, despite some progress, such as the expulsion from
parliament of two former police chiefs linked to death squads, who succeeded in
becoming elected in order to obtain immunity from prosecution.
The Chamber of Deputies of the State of Acre expelled from his
parliamentary seat Hildebrando Pascoal, a former “military police”
commandant of that state for his involvement in a death squad responsible for
the deaths of over 150 people, including the State Governor.
He was arrested on the day after his expulsion and is currently facing
criminal proceedings. In Alagoas,
in 1999, again the Parliament expelled one of its members: a former police chief
implicated in death squad activities. In São Paulo a police commandant accused
of leading the massacre in Carandirú prison in 1993 failed in his attempt at
reelection. As a result he lost his parliamentary immunity and is currently
being prosecuted. The Commission
reiterates its position that the purpose of parliamentary immunity must be to
ensure freedom of action for parliamentarians to represent the citizenry, not to
serve to conceal crimes or responsibilities unconnected with parliamentary
The Commission recommended that the use deadly weapons
by the police should only be authorized as a last resort in legitimate defense.
However, the killing of alleged criminals is routinely carried out in
incidents that constitute extrajudicial executions.
In São Paulo, the number of deaths caused by the military police (for
all reasons, including those that may have been in legitimate defense) in the
first half of 1998 came to 165, topping the figure for 1997.
For their part, during that period the Civil Police of São Paulo killed
45 people, triple the number for the same period in 1997.
The Police Ombudsman says that in spite of the progress made in recent
years, the obstacles that hinder the investigation, punishment and control of
police officers remain in place. The
obstacles he mentions include, a) the fact that the Police Corrections Office
only operates in the state capital; b) that the “military police”
disciplinary regulations are incompatible with the democratic rule of law; c)
that investigations of police officers are carried out by other officers who
belong to the same police division; and d) there is no effective victim or
witness protection program. He also
listed as contributing factors the inefficiency of the Attorney General’
Office, and the limitation preventing the jurisdictional authority of the
ordinary justice system from trying accused “military” police officers. As
mentioned below, the “military police” of São Paulo announced in 1999 a
series of programs designed to purge the police force.
In Rio de Janeiro, efforts are underway in the Legislative Assembly to
end the practice of giving “awards for bravery” to police officers who kill
criminals, and to replace them with awards based on lawful criteria. These
efforts are being supported by the current governor, thereby overcoming
obstructions left by the police corps and the previous governor.
The Commission recommended strengthening the systems
for monitoring and control of police actions by ensuring their external
supervision. In line with this,
police monitoring bodies have been set up in most states, although they are
considered weak. In São Paulo a
study by the Police Ombudsman’s Office reveals that in the almost 30 years
from 1971 to 1999 only 28 police officers of that state were expelled from the
force or punished by demotion, and, of those, only one was a high-ranking
officer. There is a constitutional
reform bill in São Paulo that would give the State Governor and not the
“military police” the authority to order demotion.
The Police Ombudsman received 6,432 complaints against the police in the
1996-97 period, 1,471 of which were for homicide, torture and abuse of
authority. The Police Ombudsman
claims that only 20% of reports of serious incidents are investigated
satisfactorily and always involving complaints against the rank and file
(recruits and non-commissioned officers), never against ranking officers.
Of 2,359 cases that were sent to police tribunals in São Paulo state
between January and October 1998, 64% were retired without a court hearing.
Cases were retired for insufficient evidence and failure to identify the police
Internal monitoring by the police is equally lax in Rio
A study by "O Globo de 1998” states that the internal review system is totally
ineffective. According to the study, of the 53 investigations into police
torture that had been opened since Law 9455 was passed in 1996, in which 67
police officers were accused, only two had been concluded and in both cases the
accused were acquitted.
Oversight bodies have been created in other states and
in some it is reported that complaints are treated more seriously than they had
been in the past, while in others these activities continue to be beset with
difficulties. In Ceara the General
Corrections Office for Public Security Organs was created in cooperation with
the State Attorney General’s Office and provides a telephone service for
registering complaints. In Minas Gerais, the Police Ombudsman’s Office was set
up in 1998. In Rio Grande do Sul
the State Government decided to create in 1997 the Committee for the
Disciplinary Control of Public Security Organ, which is composed in the main of
state representatives working with non-governmental organizations. However, in
1998 it had still not been installed. In
Pará there is a Police Ombudsman’s Office which receives complaints. However,
it is alleged that these are not investigated by the Corrections Office.
Enhanced police effectiveness and training in human
rights, the subject of one of the IACHR’s recommendations, is being addressed
by various states, either autonomously or with the help of the National Human
Rights Secretariat (SNDH). Thus, São
Paulo, Rio Grande do Sul, Minas Gerais, Espirito Santo, Ceará, Sergipe and
Bahia have launched training programs in human rights awareness for uniformed
police, in some cases with the participation of non-governmental organizations,
and in 10 states with Amnesty International.
At the federal level, the Federal Police Academy with the participation
of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), started a training
course in human rights for 300 high-ranking police officers from 21 states. The
course is designed for these officers to pass the training on to junior ranking
officers and police recruits at the state level.
In São Paulo,
the “military police” had trained one-fifth of its personnel (16.000 out of
a total of 80.000) to participate in community policing, and increased the
availability of non-deadly weapons. However, human rights organizations
considered that these efforts had failed to produce any positive results by the
end of 1998.
21. In March 1999 the “Military Police” of São Paulo reported that in an internal reorganization drive in the first two and a half months of 1999, they had dismissed 180 men on disciplinary grounds, almost half the number dismissed in the whole of 1998. They had adopted other measures to reduce police excesses, such as making the selection process more rigorous at the Recruit Training School; training recruits in community policing and human rights; and making it a condition to have a complete high school education. The “military police” had also launched a program for officers at the Barro Branco Academy for enhancing effectiveness and improving pay. A third measure is the Counseling Program for Police Officers Involved in High-Risk Incidents (Proar) to help them deal with possible traumatic or negative consequences as a result of gun battles. In 1998 Proar dealt with 966 cases of “military” police officers suffering such conditions. Some measures are counterproductive to police effectiveness; for instance the São Paulo Police has ignored the São Paulo Violence Risk Map, a professional strategic prioritization tool designed in 1995, the findings of which were ignored by the State Secretariat for Public Security. According to the First National Report (p. 84), only a few battalions showed interest in the findings and were willing to discuss them in order to enhance the effectiveness of their actions.
RECOMMENDATIONS WITH RESPECT TO THE JUSTICE SYSTEM AND THE RIGHT TO A
In its recommendations the Commission focused on the problems that
prevent the Brazilian justice system from fulfilling its duty to ensure the
right of the population to a fair trial. The
President of Brazil confirmed that preoccupation during an address to the Order
of Brazilian Attorneys, in which he said that it was imperative to reform the
judicial system in order to tackle its corrupt administration and slowness.
In 1998 the President of the
Supreme Court also called attention to the fact that the previous year the Court
had ruled on 40.000 cases, the vast majority of which had already been ruled on
by the appellate courts.
The slowness and administrative problems are intimately bound up with
impunity and difficulties in investigating and prosecuting government agents,
generally “military” police officers, alleged to be responsible for human
rights violations. However, these
problems are not limited to the criminal justice system.
Studies carried out by the Institute for Religious Studies (ISER) and the
Getulio Vargas Foundation indicate that most of the population in the Rio de
Janeiro metropolitan region considers the labor and civil justice systems to be
slow and discriminatory.
Witness protection also prompted recommendations by the Commission.
In July 1998 a law was adopted providing more comprehensive protection
for witnesses. The new law
authorizes measures such as change of identity, and provides for reduced
sentences for any accused persons who cooperate with government attorneys, with
the exception of repeat offenders. Joint programs based on the PROVITA system are already
underway between Government and civil society organizations in Pernambuco, Pará,
Matto Grosso do Sul, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. These programs are being
extended to cover other states.
Such delays and ineffectiveness were also found in the military justice
system, thereby strengthening the impunity that human rights violations enjoy.
In May 1999 an investigation into São Paulo's special courts for uniformed
police uncovered 1.107 "missing" and "delayed" cases against
uniformed police. The above included 100 murder charges, some delayed by up to
The recommendations of the IACHR were aimed at the full
implementation of the Statute on Children and Adolescents (one of the most
advanced laws in the region) and, in particular, protection of children and
adolescents at risk, and of children “on the street” and “of the
street”; child workers; children working as prostitutes and in different forms
of servitude; and children confined in institutions and prisons. By the same token the Commission recommended intensifying
efforts to set up protection institutions, such as the Tutelary Councils,
programs on family education, and adoption of abandoned children in order to
ensure the right to education.
As to child labor, the Commission draws attention to
the ratification by the Senate in December 1999 of ILO Conventions Nº 138 and Nº
182, which establish a minimum working age (14 years old), and eliminate all
forms of hazardous, unsanitary or degrading work for minors aged 14 to 18.
According to government figures for November 1999, the number of children
who work has dropped significantly, and, consequently, the number of those that
go to school has grown. The
Commission recalls that in 1994 a study indicated that there were around seven
million children working as agricultural laborers in Brazil.
Currently there are still around three million minors between the ages of 10 and
14 who work; some 25% work more than 40 hours a week and 60,000 in unsanitary
There are also still areas where there is a high incidence of child
labor, including Alagoas, where 20,000 minors work harvesting cane and tobacco;
and Bahia, where 12,000 minors work in the orange industry.
initiative with respect to rural child labor that the Commission noted was the
establishment of an agreement between the Ministry of Social Services of the
State of Matto Grosso, the local Sugar Producers Association, and the Rural
Workers Federation. This agreement is designed to eliminate child labor in the
Mata area, and establish a system of fellowships for children who cease to work
as coal miners and go back to school. The
information on the State of Matto Grosso do Sul indicates that the child labor
in coal mines has been successfully stopped, following implementation of the
PNDH in the state’s 29 municipalities. These
aspects of the PNDH are also being implemented in other states.
The Group for the Elimination of Forced Labor (GETRAF) carried out
important work, which must be broadened.
With respect to the recommendations on protection of
children “on the street” and “of the street,” the information received
by the IACHR states that, despite measures to reduce police violence against
them, its practice continues, very often with impunity.
Some initiatives aimed at getting them to return to school and their
family homes have enjoyed a limited degree of success in reducing the high
number of children and adolescents “of the street”, which still runs to tens
of thousands in Brazil’s urban areas. Figures indicate, inter alia, that in 1998, in Belém do Pará some 2,300 youths under
the age of 18 spent their days in the streets, a drop of around 50% compared to
1993. In Rio de Janeiro it was estimated in 1997 that 30,000 minors frequent the
streets by day but probably less than 1,000 sleep there; the corresponding
figures for São Paulo, meanwhile, were 12,000 and 4,000.
Several states have complied with the legal obligation
underscored by the IACHR with respect to the creation of Tutelary Councils,
which are joint government and community participatory organizations set up for
the protection of juveniles, and settlement of minor disputes and offences.
In cooperation with the SEDH around 150 such councils, the most notable
example being the state of Espirito Santo, where councils have now been
established in 50 municipalities. Furthermore,
with support provided by the Federal Government and civil society Child Forums
have been created to discuss and propose measures for solving these problems.
Despite the efforts of more than 40 programs being
carried out by different non-governmental organizations with state support,
sexual exploitation of minors remains a core problem in Brazil and takes many
forms, including open prostitution on the street, child pornography, pedophilia,
and sexual tourism. Among the
initiatives instituted to combat this problem, the observers highlighted
telephone hot lines which were put into practice in several states and which
appear to be producing positive results (in Santa Catarina the number of
complaints declined from 1,767 cases in 1996 to 1,534 in 1997, dropping again to
1,213 in 1998). Another initiative
in this area was implemented in the metropolitan region of Rio de Janeiro where
the Tutelary Councils and local institutions entered into agreements for
ensuring compliance with the Statute on Children and Adolescents, particularly
insofar as sexual exploitation of minors is concerned.
Several of the IACHR’s recommendations addressed the
problem of domestic violence and abuse committed against minors.
Studies and activities have been carried out, in particular by Tutelary
Councils, which have found that in the majority of cases the different types of
physical violence inflicted on children are committed by members of the
child’s family. This was true of 90% of cases in Porto Alegre, while in Rio de
Janeiro fathers or stepfathers were responsible in 49.2% of cases of sexual
abuse of minors.
Violence against minors in establishments for
sheltering children and/or custody of young offenders remains a major problem in
Brazil. The recommendations made
and the initiatives implemented to expand and reform these establishments have
failed in most cases to improve the situation.
There are ongoing problems of overcrowding, lack of hygiene, absence of
effective work and training programs for their rehabilitation, and systematic
abuse by their guardians. This
situation has given rise to many revolts, some with tragic consequences. The
IACHR was informed of the positive initiative to reform of establishments in Rio
de Janeiro, among them the Instituto Padre Severino.
This initiative should be broadened and repeated in other states.
The Commission was informed that although the figures
provided by the Ministry of Education show an increase in enrollment at primary
and secondary school level, school failure and absenteeism remain a grave
problem, given that almost half Brazilian children do not manage to complete
basic education. The IACHR
recommended broadening programs such as that of the “School Fellowship”
scheme for providing low-income families with monthly stipends, which are
delivered if each child continues to enroll and attend school regularly.
Various states have begun to put this scheme into practice, including
Amapá, Amazonas, Bahia, and Pernambuco. The
Commission regrets that the scheme has been canceled in the Federal District,
where it originated and had achieved positive results. Other, similar programs,
such as “All children in school”, are being put into operation at the
federal or state level. Several
states have committed under the Minas Agreement to broaden their action in this
In conclusion, the Commission considers that the State has set in motion
at the federal and state level a large number of actions for tackling the above
problems, some of which have been effective and have been supported by the
community. However, both the magnitude and nature of these problems remain the
same and in few cases have there been qualitative changes that have entailed an
effective alleviation of the harsh situation endured by broad sectors of the
child and adolescent population in Brazil.
RECOMMENDATIONS ON THE RIGHTS OF RURAL WORKERS
In its Report of 1997, the Commission made recommendations on the rights
of rural workers regarding access to land as guaranteed by the Brazilian
Constitution, and land-related disputes. Those
recommendations basically addressed expansion of the action of the Ministry of
Agrarian Reform so as to accelerate the land redistribution process and promote
credit; strengthening systems of peaceful negotiation in order to avoid violent
disputes over possession and ownership of land; elimination of servitude and
punishment of persons who promote and exploit it; and measures to protect the
personal security of rural community leaders and human rights defenders.
In relation to the recommendation to broaden the
measures adopted by the Ministry of Agrarian Reform aimed at solving problems
originated by those violations, the Commission has noted the creation of the
Ministry for Policy on Rural Property, which is the central government body in
charge of agrarian reform programs and of the PRONAF (National Program for
Strengthening Family-Based Agricultures), which includes the creation of the
Land Bank (Banco de la Tierra) with
the aim of promoting credit for small-scale producers.
The increased efforts on the part of the State in this area was given an
added boost with the passing of the 88-96 Complementary Law, which established a
summary process for property transfer procedures designed to push ahead with
agrarian reform. For its part, the
aim of Provisional Measure 1901 is to combat the problem of excessive
compensation in these property transfers by eliminating late payment charges on
As regards the related recommendation to accelerate the
land redistribution process and promote credit, government figures indicate a
rise in redistributed land: 335,000 families (approximately 1.6 million people)
were settled between 1995 and 1999, compared to the 218,000 families between
1964 and 1994. In 1995 to 1999 R$
3.9 billion (more than U$S 2 billion) were invested in agrarian reform.
However, according to the Commission’s information, over the same
period increasing numbers of small-scale farmers and agricultural workers lost
their lands or jobs in the framework of structural economic changes lead to
concentration of land ownership.
The Commission has received information indicating that
little progress has been made in broadening negotiation mechanisms designed to
avoid violent disputes in rural areas over land.
One potentially positive initiative yet to be implemented is to secure
the participation of the Attorney General’s Office in ensuring compliance with
mandates on restoration of agrarian property.
This general recommendation remains valid, given the growing numbers of
disputes in rural areas. According to the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT), such
disputes increased from 736 in 1997 to 1,100 en 1998, doubling the number of
peasants involved. By the same
token, the number of violent deaths resulting from disputes of this type went up
from 30 to 47 over the same period, with 17 people killed in the first seven
months of 1999. The CPT has also
reported that in 1998, such disputes resulted in 488 death threats, 35 workers
tortured, 164 physical assaults, and 207 cases of bodily harm.
As for elimination of servitude, State action has
managed significantly to reduce the number of cases and of persons forced to
endure this situation. Reports of forced labor dropped from 17 to 14 cases
between 1997 and 1998, with the reported number of workers living in servitude
declining from 872 to 614. Those
reductions were possible thanks to the joint efforts of government institutions
and civil society organizations. The Special Mobile Inspection Group, created by
Decree in 1995 as the operational arm of the Executive Group for the Repression
of Forced Labor (GERTRAF) was intensely active in states where this is problem
is most widespread, in particular Pará. In all, according to information from the Ministry of Labor
and from the CPT, the number of people who remain in servitude in Brazil would
appear to have come down to approximately 2,000, making it necessary to step up
action in this area, in order to stamp out its practice and prevent it from
Measures designed to protect the personal security of
laborers, community leaders and human rights defenders have had little success. Many
laborers and their families, especially those who demand their rights to obtain
land continue openly to be attacked and threatened.
The majority of these cases go unpunished due to the negligence of the
authorities and the slowness and incapacity of the judicial system.
One deplorable case of violence, which remains unpunished, was the
assault on the cleric Rodrigo Perete by the “military police” of Minas
Gerais in 1998.
The situation in the south of the State of Pará
continues to be of particular concern. The
Commission has stated its opinion on this situation on various occasions, yet,
despite a number of measures adopted by the federal and state governments,
serious violations continue to take place in the area with the complicity of the
police and the failure of the judicial system to punish those responsible. A
report by the Committee for Human Rights of the Federal Chamber of Deputies,
indicates that, “the victims, generally speaking, are poor people,
agricultural workers and rural community leaders,” and that most of the
violations are the outcome of agrarian land disputes.
In the above report of August 18, 1999, on violations
in southern Pará, the parliamentary commission categorizes the complaints as a)
those relating to the impunity of criminals as a result of the mishandling of
police investigations and criminal proceedings; and b) to illegal practices of
failure to carry out duties or obligations by the “military” and civil
police of that region. With respect
to the first category, the report cites three massacres as examples: Colonia
Picadão in March 1996, where four children and two adults were killed and
several other persons seriously wounded--the process is halted, and the Promoter
of Justice was threatened by the District Judge himself; Fazenda Santa Clara in
January 1997, where three agricultural laborers were murdered--the culprits were
identified but the delay in carrying out the order of imprisonment allowed them
to escape; Asentamento Travessão in March 1999, where two people were murdered
and two others wounded-- six witnesses came forward to identify the murderers
but their evidence was deemed worthless and the investigation has run into
In relation to the second category, concerning reports
of illegal failure to carry out duties or obligations by the police in the south
of the State of Pará, the parliamentary report highlighted the police’s
disobedience of court orders and failure to perform the duty to act ex
officio. The report also mentioned “military police” officers accused of
various crimes who remain on active duty, and cases of violence and torture at
By state law 6236 of July 21, 1999, the State of Pará, in implicit
acceptance of its strict responsibility, complied with the recommendation made
by the Inter-American Commission to provide compensation to the relatives of the
southern Pará trade union leader, João Canuto.
The state granted a special life annuity to his widow, Da. Geraldina Pereira de Oliveira. The
state also reported that, Jerónimo Alves, the principal defendant in the
proceeding, was arrested by the state police but was released for lack of an
order of imprisonment.
In Case 11.793 being heard by the Inter-American Commission, the State of
Rio de Janeiro agreed to provide compensation to the family of the victim, Jorge
Antonio Carelli, and implicitly accepted liability for his disappearance.
In sum, the Commission considers that the government has adopted measures
designed to ease tensions in rural areas which generate violations of human
rights; and that those measures have gone some way toward improving the pace of
land distribution and bringing a noticeable reduction in servitude. However, meaningful and profound measures have yet to be
adopted to reduce violent confrontations connected with the problems of land
occupation and allocation, and the impunity of the police or private individuals
who violate the rights to life and to personal security of agricultural workers,
as well as of human rights defenders acting on the latter’s behalf.
RECOMMENDATIONS ON THE RIGHTS OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES
The situation of the 300,000 indigenous persons in Brazil, who occupy a
large portion of the national territory (around 11%) was the subject of
recommendations by the IACHR to the State, in particular with reference to
demarcation, titling, and protection of their territories; and to adequate
measures for improving the precarious health and education services they
The Federal government made rapid progress in the
demarcation, approval and titling of indigenous lands.
As a result, in 1998 this process had been completed or was at an
advanced stage for 90% of the indigenous land area. Between 1995 and 1998, 25
million hectares of indigenous lands (115,000 square miles) were titled.
However, a number of important cases were awaiting solution, among them that of
the Macuxi lands in the State of Pará, in regard of which the IACHR made
special recommendations. The Federal Government adopted measures in 1998 to grant
final approval and titles for those lands as a single block and not separate
areas. However, according to the
information received, various lawsuits brought by state institutions and private
parties have prevented giving effect to the federal executive’s decision.
In some states the situation regarding indigenous lands is far from being
solved. The clearest such case is
the State of Amazonas, which contains one-third of Brazil’s indigenous
population and 170 indigenous territories, 84 of which have not been identified.
Of the remainder, 49 are registered and 35 are in process of demarcation
Indigenous lands were also adjudicated in Pernambuco but their ownership
cannot be transferred by decision of the State Supreme Court, which is examining
lawsuits brought by squatters who have appropriated these lands.
These legal actions are blocking the removal of 181 fazendeiros,
who are operating on adjudicated lands, and, as a result, the federal executive
cannot give final approval for them.
Another case in which the IACHR had made recommendations was resolved in
Espirito Santo in 1998, following a settlement reached between the State and the
Tupiniquim people. Under this settlement, the Tupiniquim, in return for monetary
compensation and other benefits, agreed to reduce their claims on additional
lands, which they were demanding on top of those already recognized by the
Ministry of Justice.
With respect to the recommendation to protect the lands
and habitat of indigenous peoples, the Government has continued to operate,
albeit irregularly, a patrol service to prevent invasion of indigenous lands by
miners, garimpeiros (small-scale
extractive prospectors) and illegal loggers.
According to data for 1998, serious incidents of police violence continue
in the Brazilian Amazon region and supervision by the National Indian Foundation
(FUNAI) remains weak. In several
states, in particular in Amazonas, Indians reportedly continue to suffer from a
severe lack of basic services, such as security, justice, health and education. In
1997 the infant mortality rate among the Yanomami people, for instance, was 130
per 1,000 live births, eight times higher than that of non-indigenous infants.
In conclusion, the Commission considers that the State has undertaken
numerous efforts that have had a positive effect in protecting the lives and
property of indigenous peoples, and sought creatively to settle a number of
disputes; and that these efforts must be continued and enhanced. The Commission further concludes that institutions at the
state level and local interest groups continually use either violent methods or
abuse the justice administration system either to block or to infringe on those
rights. Given the magnitude of the
problems that persist and the ongoing aggression against the lands and lives of
indigenous persons, the Commission recommends that the State continue and step
up its efforts to protect them, including, to that end, measures adopted, not
only by the federal executive, but also by legislatures and judiciaries at the
federal and state levels.
The Commission recommended adoption of measures to combat abuse and
violence against women, their forcible exploitation, discrimination, and
underestimation of their value in the labor market and in positions of political
and economic power, as well as abolition of archaic and discriminatory measures.
Most major cities and towns have established special police offices to
deal with crimes of domestic or sexual violence against women.
In 1998 there were some 200 of these special delegations, although they
are practically unheard of in rural areas.
Reliable sources indicate that men who commit crimes
against women, including sexual assault and murder, are rarely convicted.
Although the Supreme Court abolished the concept of “defense of
honor” as justification for murdering a wife, the courts are still reluctant
to prosecute and convict men who claim they killed their wives for marital
infidelity. This last point is
particularly significant, given that, in June 1998, the National Human Rights
Movement reported that female murder victims were 30 times more likely to have
been killed by current or former husbands or lovers than by others.
Hundreds of complaints of domestic violence
against women continue to flow into specialized delegations that have begun
to be set up in different states. Such
violence is not confined to poorly educated and low-income sectors, but occurs
also --as a study at Paraiba Federal University shows--among
university--educated and middle-income sectors.
Another ongoing alarming problem is the situation of
large numbers of people who work in the sex trade and prostitution, particularly
women, many of whom are exploited and forced to engage in such activities
against their will. There are a
number of interesting initiatives underway to combat this problem, among them
those carried out by the Worker’s Protection Fund, a Belo Horizonte state
institution, which funds initiatives aimed helping women in such situations to
recover their dignity.
The specialized unit recently created by the police in
Rio de Janeiro state to deal with trafficking
in women and children reported 15
investigations underway in 1998; 12 on trafficking to Spain, two to Israel and
one to Japan.
According to the Commission’s information there is
still a significant level of discrimination in the labor market.
Official statistics for 1998 indicate that women with a high school
education earn 63% of the salary earned by men with the same level of education.
A documented example appears in a study conducted by the Paraiba State Council
on Women’s Rights, which indicates that men earn twice as much as women for
the same job.
VIII. RECOMMENDATIONS AGAINST RACIAL DISCRIMINATION
61. The National Human Rights Plan contains recommendations in this area that coincide with those of the Commission and are being put into practice by the authorities. Law 9459 was passed in 1997 categorizing the crimes of discrimination based on ethnic group, religion or national origin, and provides
enalties and fines for promulgation of pejorative terms for
ethnic or racial groups, of use of nazi symbols, and of national hatred.
According to government statistics, a black Brazilian
with a high school education earns on average half as much as his white
counterpart. Equally, illiteracy
and high school or university enrollment rates among the black population are
lower than those of the rest of the population.
In addition black people are much more likely to be murder victims,
killed by the police, and convicted by the justice system.
The Committee for Human Rights of the São Paulo
Legislature reported the existence of neo-nazi groups in São Paulo and southern
Brazil, which attack and incite hatred against African-Brazilians and the poor.
In several states the State restored to traditional
afro-Brazilian communities known as quilombos
the lands where they live or have lived, and explicitly recognized the
historical truth of their dispossession. Efforts
are also underway to ensure that discriminatory connotations are avoided in
In Pernambuco, the Center for Black Studies, in
cooperation with the State Secretariat for Justice and the SNDH, is carrying out
a project to sensitize and provide training to community leaders, lawyers,
judges and judiciary officials on appropriate action in cases of racial
discrimination, and to provide assistance to victims of those crimes.
The authorities of the State of Pernambuco, in conjunction with the NGO
Djumbay and the Center for Racial Identity, are implementing public policies to
combat racial discrimination.
In 1997, the federal government’s Inter-Ministerial
Group for Recognition of the Black Population published 29 recommendations to
the authorities, which referred, inter
alia, to the creation of affirmative action systems in the area of
university enrollment and the right to stand for public office.
The recommendations of the Commission sought to
emphasize the urgent need for compliance with international standards and with
the provisions contained in the Constitution on treatment of detainees.
In particular, the recommendations proposed ending overcrowding,
improving the level of hygiene, offering work and skills development programs,
and separating convicted inmates from those awaiting trial.
The Commission particularly recommended improving strategies, norms, and
practices for preventing, avoiding, and, if necessary, quelling prison riots and
outbreaks of violence.
Severe overcrowding in prisons remains a generalized problem and is increasing in the states with
the largest prison populations (São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Bahia, Rio Grande Do
Sul, and Pernambuco). In November
1998, the Congress adopted law 9417-98, which increases the categories of
criminals eligible to serve sentences without being confined in a prison, and
establishes a further eight forms of sentencing as alternatives to imprisonment.
Unfortunately, according to the information received there is
insufficient infrastructure for supervising parolees and community service, and,
moreover, judges are prone to issue prison convictions, all of which contributes
to underutilization of these positive alternative measures.
A report by the United Nations Latin American Institute for the
Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders (ILANUD)
indicated that in São Paulo only 200 of the 1,700 places for parolees were
in use in September 1999.
In São Paulo an important plan was finalized for the
construction of new prison establishments with room for an additional 18,000
prisoners. Nevertheless overcrowding continues. Despite the creation of new
prisons, the existing prisons continue to hold approximately the same number of
inmates (30,000) as they did before the new ones were opened.
In Pernambuco, the situation has deteriorated so badly that in 1997 there
were 6,265 prisoners in establishments with a design capacity of one-third that
amount (2,370). The above situation
led to rioting and revolts, including the tragic incident at Barreto Capello
Prison in 1998, which resulted in the violent deaths of 22 inmates.
Riots and revolts continue to occur in various states,
including Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte and São Paulo. In the first seven months of 1998, 103 prison riots occurred
in São Paulo state, where 40% of the country’s prison population resides.
In June 1998 the Police Inspectorate carried out an investigation into
reports of systematic torture that had occurred in January and February. The
investigation concluded that of 350 prisoners detained in one establishment
during those two months, 107 showed signs of a pattern of beating that included
fracturing of fingers, limbs, and jaws. The
civil police expelled four police officers from the force as a result.
In the Federal District, for the first time since a law against torture
was passed in 1997, a police officer was convicted of torturing a detainee who
had been arrested as a result of a traffic accident.
The problem of overcrowding and lack of adequate
medical care for inmates is compounded by the fact that, according to Ministry
of Justice figures, between 10% and 20% of the prison population is HIV
As if to reinforce the above negative trends, the
Archdiocese’s Pastoral Carcelaria (Prisons
Service) has reported the increasing difficulty in some states for attorneys,
human rights workers, and representatives of organizations for the defense of
detainees, to gain free access to prisoners’ cellblocks.
RESPECT FOR SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC RIGHTS
In its report, the Commission drew attention to violations of social,
economic and cultural rights in particular, in Brazil, since those rights are
affected by the skewed income distribution and circumstances so dire as to
impair other basic rights, such as the rights to life, humane treatment,
education, and of the family. Furthermore,
such circumstances are a social breeding ground for numerous other violations of
A report commissioned by the Federal Government’s
National Human Rights Secretariat (SNDH), which contains official figures, shows
that income distribution in Brazil continues to be among the most regressive in
the world, and that this situation is not only typical of its remote states,
whose economies are heavily dependent on agriculture (Alagoas, Acre, Bahia, and
Ceará, where the wealthiest 10% of the population possess between 50% and 55%
of the income, while the poorest 40% have only seven to nine percent). Marked
differences in income are also prevalent in the urban and industrial central
states. (In the Federal District, Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais, the
wealthiest 10% of the population earn between 45% and 48% of total income,
compared to 9% to 10% for the poorest 40%).
In Brazil as a whole, on average, the richest 10% earn 5.7 times more
than the poorest 40%.
The concentration of poverty in some areas wreaks additional havoc.
En Alagoas, 62% of the population is unemployed, and 51.6% of those who
are employed earn less than the minimum wage.
In Amazonas, the situation is similar.
In Foz de Iguazu, the influx and settlement of Paraguayan citizens
emigrating from their country caused the number of favelas
(shantytowns) to increase from 45 to 75 between 1996 and 1998.
The Federal Government has launched the “Amazonia Solidaria” Program in the states of Brazil’s Amazon
region with the aim of providing assistance for low-income sectors.
The Federal Government of Brazil has adopted some
significant measures designed to comply with the objectives mentioned in the
Commission’s recommendations in its Report of 1997, as well as coinciding with
the National Human Rights Program set in motion 1996. Those measures adopted by the Federal State, which some
member states of the Union have sought--albeit to varying degrees--to emulate,
have accomplished some changes in the human rights situation in Brazil.
While those changes are limited when viewed against the gravity of the
situation, in and of themselves they are positive and deserve to be highlighted.
In the opinion of the IACHR the measures that have
achieved the most substantial effect are those adopted in such areas as
elimination of servitude, reduction of child labor, demarcation and recognition
of indigenous lands, distribution of unproductive lands to peasants, and
creation of community-based agencies for providing assistance to especially
Also important have been legislative initiatives aimed
at improving the situation of human rights, through preventive measures and via
effective punishment of violations. Among
those initiatives the Commission again underscores the importance for the
protection of rights of Brazil’s acceptance of the compulsory contentious
jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
Finally, the Commission wishes to praise the measures
adopted that have been creating a nascent broad-based culture of respect for
human rights. The above include the
establishment by Offices of the Attorneys General at all levels of State
Prosecutor’s Offices and of Citizen Defense Promoters’ Offices.
They also include the creation in several states of Councils against
Violence composed of authorities and non-governmental organizations; and of
Committees for the Defense of Human Rights in several state legislative
However, the Commission can only concur with the
conclusions of the First National Report to the effect that “violence is still
present in Brazil in different forms: common crime; massacres; extrajudicial
execution; rape of minors; exploitation of children and adolescents; abuse in
prison establishments, and in institutions for the custody of minors;
discrimination; and intolerance. This violence is fueled by continuing serious
inequalities and high rates of unemployment, by ongoing authoritarian values and
practices in various sectors of society and state entities, and by impunity.”
In that sense, the Commission must stress that many of
the measures adopted in connection with its recommendations have had a minimal
effect. The most obvious example is
that of police violence and the impunity of “military” police officers who
commit abuses and crimes.
In this regard, the Commission reiterates the
importance of conferring on the common justice system jurisdiction over all
offences committed by either “military” or civil police officials, through
the timely approval of the bill presented by the Executive Branch to that end.
By the same token, the Commission reiterates its recommendation to
federalize the treatment of human rights violations, thereby making it possible
to transfer to the Union the duty to investigate, prosecute and punish such
violations, in the event of inertness or ineffectiveness on the part of state
Also largely ineffective have been measures to lessen
Brazil’s profoundly distorted income distribution and access to social
opportunity and in particular, the negative backlash of that inequality on the
poor and African-Brazilian population, who have to endure the discriminatory
imposition against them of police actions and violence, criminal prosecution,
and prison sentences.
Lastly, the Commission considers that--albeit in different measures--the
basic conditions remain that prompted it to make the recommendations contained
in the Report of 1997, which it reiterates with the aim that full observance of
the human rights guaranteed in the American Convention may be accomplished in
PROCESSSING OF THE REPORT
draft report on the situation of human rights in Brazil was approved by the
Commission during its 106º regular session.
It was sent to the State on March 10, 2000, pursuant to Article 63(h) of
the Commission´s Regulations, in order to allow for the submission of
observations within thirty days.
Brazilian State failed to present observations within the time limited provided.
87. On April
13, 2000, the Commission approved this report and its publication within Chapter
V of the present Annual Report.
 The Commission has had access, inter alia, to reports prepared by commissions of enquiry of the
Federal Congress and state legislatures, which have been of great value in
exposing and securing convictions for human rights violations.
 Data on the different states where the Army had to
intervene are contained in the First National Report.
 U.S. State Department, Report on Human Rights for
1999, p. 10.
 In October 1998 the Chamber of Deputies stripped
Hildebrando Pascoal of his parliamentary immunity.
First National Report, pp. 10-11.
U.S. State Department, Report on Human Rights for 1999,
 First National Report, p. 41.
 U.S. State Department, Report on Human Rights for
1999, p. 11.
 The current Governor took office in 1999.
U.S. Department of State. Country Report on Human
Rights Practices for 1998, Brazil, February 26, 1999.
First National Report, p. 48.
 Human Rights Watch, op cit.
 A parliamentary enquiry concluded that much of the U$S
300,000,000 in cost overruns on the construction of court buildings (which
remain unfinished) in São Paulo went into the private funds of a
high-ranking judiciary official and a senator. For years prosecuting
attorneys were incapable of uncovering the evidence that was obtained by the
Parliamentary Committee. New York
Times, November 22, 1999.
 U.S. Department of State, Country Report for 1999. Brazil, p.3.
 Guerra, Rosangela, “A
Infancia Perdida”, in Nova
Escola, May 1994.
 U.S. Department of State, Country Report on Human
Rights Practices. January 1999.
Brazil, p. 22.
 First National Report, 1999.
 U.S. Dept. of State Report for 1999. Brazil p. 35.
Brazilian Ministry of Agrarian Reform, “Livro
Branco das Superindemnizacãos”.
 Jornal do Brazil, November 1, 1999. Declarations
by the Minister of Agrarian Reform, Raul Jungmann.
 It should be recalled that in 1992, according to
estimates by the University of São Paulo, approximately 60,000 laborers
were being forced to live in servitude on some 300 fazendas around the country.
 See IACHR,
1997 Annual Report, Case 11.297, João Canuto de Oliveira, Report Nº
 Data provided by the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI),
Ministry of Justice, “FUNAI. 30 Years,” 1998.
 First National Report.
 First National Report, p.
 First National Report, p.
 The mention of this law in
this Follow-Up Report does not signify the passing judgment about the
consistency of that law with the provisions enshrined in Article 13 of the
American Convention on Human Rights.
 National Human Rights Movement, O Cor do Medo. Homicidios e Relacões Raciais no Brazil. s/d. See
also U.S. State Dept. “Country Reports…”,
 First National Report.
 Folha de São Paulo, August 23, 1998.