1. Ever since it was established in 1961, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has followed with special interest the effective exercise and the evolution of fundamental rights in Brazil. In a few cases it has issued opinions on individual situations--the best known of which upheld the rights of the Yanomami indians in 1985--thanks to the competence conferred on it by the Inter-American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, and it has drawn up recommendations specifically addressed to the Brazilian Government as well. The Commission has also observed with satisfaction the progressive constitutional and legislative reforms designed to consolidate those rights, as well as the formation of nongovernment organizations who fight for the observance of those rights.(1) Prominent among those measures was the ratification of the American Convention on September 25, 1992.(2)
2. On June 19, 1995, the Government of Brazil, headed by Fernando Enrique Cardoso gave its permission for the Commission to conduct an on-site mission in the country, thereby acceding to the request which the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights had been making since 1989 because of its concern over the reports from official, international and nongovernmental organizations in regard to violations of human rights.(3)
3. Three months prior to the in situ visit, President Cardoso had emphasized his government's recognition of the important work being performed by the Commission and the Court. Once again he expressed Brazil's determination to work with these bodies, citing the strides which his government was attempting to make toward permanent solutions in order to cope with the violence and impunity existing in some of the urban and rural areas.
4. The IACHR delegation was composed by its President, Alvaro Tirado Mejia, the 1st Vice President Claudio Grossman, the 2nd Vice President John Donaldson, its members Dr. Oscar L. Fappiano and Amb. Patrick Robinson; its Executive Secretary Edith Marquez Rodriguez; the Deputy Executive Secretary Dr. David Padilla; the Advisor Dr. Domingo Acevedo; the Senior Lawyers Dra. Martha Braga, coordinator of the on-site visit, and Dr. Osvaldo Kreimer, the lawyer Milton Castillo and the assistant lawyer Felipe Sánchez.
5. The Commission conducted its on site visit from November 27 through December 8, 1995, when its team, divided into four delegations, observed the situation in Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro; in Sao Paulo; in the States of Bahia and Pernambuco; and in the States of Para and Roraima respectively. At the end of the visit, the team met in Rio de Janeiro to evaluate the information it had gathered.
6. In its press bulletin released after that evaluation, on December 9, the Commission identified the following as the most important problems facing Brazil in the area of human rights:
7. The Commission held discussions with and received statements from the country's highest political, administrative, legislative and judicial authorities, both federal and state, as well as workers, children, prison inmates, and organizations of professionals, workers, university students, nongovernmental agencies and representatives of civil society in general.(4) During its visit, the Commission was received with an attitude of openness, transparency and collaboration on the part of the Brazilian authorities who willingly joined in the analysis of human rights problems.(5) It was convinced of the genuine political willingness of the Brazilian Government to place on its agenda and assign priority to the topic of human rights--an undertaking which would assume permanent form in the National Human Rights Plan.
8. In 1985, the Electoral College of Brazil elected Tancredo Neves as president and Jose Sarney as vice president, thereby taking the first steps in the transition to democracy. Tancredo Neves died a few days before he was to be sworn in and Jose Sarney took office as president. It was during Sarney's administration that a Constitutional Assembly elected by the people drew up the 1988 Constitution.
9. Pursuant to the procedures set forth in the new Constitution, Fernando Collor de Melo was elected president by universal suffrage and the democratic regime began to be consolidated. In 1992, the Federal Senate instituted the political impeachment of Collor de Melo. The proceeding ended when he resigned in that same year, and Vice President Itamar Franco assumed the presidential office. The events of the crisis were handled with punctilious legality, thus attesting to the political maturity and democratic awareness of the Brazilian people.
10. These periods of transition and democratic consolidation saw a strengthening of the democratic system. International human rights instruments were ratified; protection measures were entrusted to institutions in the domestic sphere; and the participation of civil society was encouraged in the quest for solutions to the country's major problems.
11. In 1994, Fernando Henrique Cardoso was elected president and he has adopted a policy of transparency and objective treatment in dealing with Brazilian reality in the field of human rights. He has ensured that any claims of violations are handled by independent organs created especially for that purpose, such as the Defense Council for the Rights of the Human Person (CDDPH)(6) and the Federal Attorney General's Office for Citizens' Rights.(7) In order to create forums of dialogue with society, agencies such as the Committee of Representatives of Civil Society have also been set up; the Community Safety Councils of the State of Sao Paulo have been expanded; and the political institution has been opened up to widespread discussion with the citizenry.(8) Another program worth noting is the Solidarity Social Assistance Community which works with the public and private sectors in directing projects that seek to resolve the problems experienced by needy groups.(9)
12. Some of the Federal Government's most recent initiatives in the field of human rights are: the creation of a Human Rights Prize, the first of which was awarded in December of 1995; a campaign against sexual violence; the establishment of an Interministerial Group for Appreciation of the Black Population; an Executive Group for the Repression of Forced Labor (GERTRAF), created to coordinate efforts to abolish this type of work; and in the area of women's rights, the signing of specific protocols in the fields of health care, education, work and justice on March 8, 1996.
13. Special mention must be made of the present government's forward-looking initiative of presenting a National Human Rights Program (PNDH), crafted by the Ministry of Justice and civil society organizations. The program includes projects dealing with this field of activity, and it constitutes a clear expression of the Federal Government's commitment to render effective, at the domestic level, the international obligations assumed by Brazil in its campaign against violence and the defense of human rights.
14. The Commission wishes to emphasize the government's large-scale mobilization of civil society which participated in the preparation of the PNDH. To that end, six regional seminars were held--in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Recife, Belem, Porto Alegre and Natal--between November of 1995 and March 1996. They were attended by 334 participants from 210 agencies. At the same time, numerous human rights centers and personalities were consulted and a presentation was featured at the Meeting of the National Human Rights Movement, which took place in Brasilia in February of 1996. Finally, the Program project was discussed at the First National Conference on Human Rights, which was promoted by the Chamber of Deputies' Commission on Human Rights. Support was provided by the Forum of Legislative Committees on Human Rights; the Human Rights Commission of the Order of Federal Lawyers; the National Human Rights Movement; CNBB; FENAJ; INESC; the Peace and Justice Service; and the Indigenous Missionary Council.
15. Brazil's President Fernando Henrique Cardoso said in the foreword to the National Human Rights Program:
16. With respect to protection of the right to life, the PNDH includes short and medium-term measures to increase personal security in the battle against impunity. It then proposes measures to protect the right to freedom, with special attention to freedom of expression; a suggested rating system for mass media messages; and a campaign to stop forced labor and to improve the penitentiary system.
17. The section on protection of the right to equal treatment by the law addresses discrimination in general and, in particular, when it is employed against different groups such as children and adolescents, women, the elderly, the black population, indigenous societies, migrants--both international and those from other countries--and refugees. Also included are measures to protect the carriers of infectious diseases, especially HIV and AIDS.
18. Numerous courses of action have been presented to improve education; to mobilize and heighten awareness of human rights among Brazil's population; and to cooperate with the international community by ratifying important conventions and instruments of human rights. Many of these measures are discussed in the pertinent sections of this report.
19. The mere inclusion of participatory preparation and government undertaking of a program of this scope is a positive step, and one that the Commission considers valuable on its own merits. But its capacity is closely tied--particularly in a social climate of cynicism in the face of government promises--to the intensity and firmness of its implementation and observance by both state and national authorities and the participating agencies of civil society. In April 1957 the Secretariat of Human rights was created and given the task of coordinating the federal government's human rights policy and watching over implementation of the National Human Rights Program. This gave the government an administrative structure greater operational capacity in this area.(10)
20. The importance of unhesitating implementation of the
PNDH is enhanced by the heritage of violence and human rights violations which the present
authorities must face and which continue to be extremely serious and are far from being
resolved. Significant legislative achievements, court convictions of violators and
practical advances were effectively made during this administration and represent a
considerable change in a short amount of time and new initiatives and efforts are being
made. The Commission trusts that these first effective steps will expand and extend into
the federal and state structure to deal with the still
21. The present report addresses the human rights situations in Brazil starting with the reform of the Constitution in 1988, but it underscores the developments which took place in the last several years prior to that date. A brief review of the commitments Brazil has accepted in regard to human rights is followed by an equally brief look at the legal mechanisms for domestic guarantees and the administration of justice. The report then addresses the problems which the Commission considers to be most relevant, and about which it has obtained the most pertinent and reliable information.
22. This provisional report was prepared during the period January 1996 and March 1997 and approved in the 95th Period of Sessions of the IACHR, in March 1997. Since January 1st, 1996, the IACHR Commissioners are Drs.: John Donaldson (President, 2/24/97 - ), Carlos Ayala Corao (1st Vice President, 2/24/97 - ), Robert Goldman (2nd Vice President, 2/24/97 - ), Jean Joseph Exumé, Oscar Lujan Fappiano, Claudio Grossman, and Alvaro Tirado Mejia.
23. In keeping with its mandate and practice, the Commission has drawn on a very wide spectrum of sources concerning the domestic juridical order and has based its findings on official compendiums of laws, legal texts published by official organs and other law-related publications. The discussion of specific cases mentioned in connection with the different topics is based on the "inquiries" or investigations and the reports compiled or sponsored by such public organs as the National Congress of the Republic; the Legislative Assemblies of the States of the Brazilian Federation; public institutions such as the Attorney General's Office of the Republic; and other public sector entities. Use was also made of the data supplied by some of the nongovernmental human rights agencies in Brazil, such as: CEJIL/BRASIL and the Santos Dias Center of the Sao Paulo Archdiocese; the Order of Lawyers of Brazil, Rio de Janeiro section; the Pastoral Commission of the Earth; the Commission on Justice and Peace; the Human Rights Forum; the Center for Children and Adolescents; and other agencies. In addition, the Commission has noted the information provided by the media, along with studies, investigation records and reports prepared by international human rights organizations. Most importantly, it has paid particular attention to the valuable data gathered during its in situ visit in December of 1995.
24. The present provisional version of this report was sent in confidence to the Government of Brazil, thereby giving it a chance to comment on the contents, call attention to any errors, de facto or of interpretation, and to propose such changes as it may deem necessary. The Commission received specific comments from the Government in July 1997 and, after taking them into account, has prepared this final version.
ENDNOTES TO THE INTRODUCTION
1. In Brazil there are more than 5.000 non-governmental organizations, with more than 80.000 members, operating in the area of human rights, civil and labour law, environment, political participation, consumer advice and humanitarian assistance. Very often these ngo's work in conjunction with local government agencies, as well as international ones. The Catholic Church, a powerful advocate for social development in Brazil, registers more than 100.000 activists working at the community level. BRAZILIAN EMBASSY IN THE U.S. "SOCIETY, CITIZENSHIP AND HUMAN RIGHTS IN CONTEMPORARY BRAZIL", 1995, p. 3.
2. The American Convention on Human Rights was signed at the Special Inter-American Conference on Human Rights in San Jose, Costa Rica on November 22, 1969. When the instrument of adherence was deposited (Note No. 231, addressed to the Secretary General) on September 25, 1992, the Permanent Representative of Brazil to the Organization placed on record the following statement interpreting the meaning of Articles 43 and 48.d of the Convention:
3. In notes dated May 8, 1989 and October 15, 1990, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights asked for permission from the Government of Brazil to make an in situ visit to the territory inhabited by the Yanomami indians. On August 8, 1991, that permission was again requested--this time, for an in situ observation of the general situation of human rights in Brazil. The request was repeated on February 7, 1992. On October 26, 1992, Ambassador Bernardo Pericas Neto, Permanent Representative of Brazil to the Organization of American States, transmitted to Dr. Marco Tulio Bruni Celli, the President of the CIDH, an invitation from the Minister of Justice, the Chairman of the Commission for Defense of the Rights of the Human Person (CDDPH), and Brazil's Minister of Foreign Affairs to visit the country--but did not suggest a date for the visit. On February 11, 1994, the IACHR repeated its request for permission to make an in situ visit. Dr. Oscar Lujan Fappiano, in his official capacity as Chairman of the IACHR, accepted the Government's invitation to visit Brazil December 12-18, 1993. This was not considered to be an in situ visit as set forth in Article 18.f of the IACHR Statute and Article 44 of its Regulations, since it was made in response to an invitation addressed to the Commission's Chair, not to the Commission as a whole. The Permanent Representative of Brazil to the Organization of American States stated in his Note No. 399, dated December 9, 1993, to the IACHR Executive Secretariat that the visit was not for the purpose of "observing the human rights situation in this (sic) country," but "to establish working contacts and IACHR cooperation with the competent government officials in the terms of the invitation sent by the Brazilian Government." On March 28, 1994, the Permanent Representative again referred to the purpose of that trip with the following words:
In its press release No. 4/94, dated February 11, 1994, the Commission mentioned some of the factors in the human rights situation in Brazil that were a source of concern, as well as its decision to draft a special report on the subject. The pertinent portions of that bulletin read as follows:
Mindful of its desire to collaborate with the Federative Republic of Brazil, the Commission agreed to repeat its request to be granted permission for an in situ visit that would allow it to become better informed and to help support the efforts of all sectors committed to improving the human rights situation in Brazil, pursuant to the obligations assumed by the country when it signed the American Convention. The Commission also decided to continue its preparation of the special report on the situation of human rights in Brazil (press release No. 4/94, February 11, 1994, pages 4 and 5).
On June 19, 1995 the new Administration in Brazil, accepted the on-site visit by the IACHR.
4. The IACHR's 1st subgroup, formed by the IACHR President, Dr. Alvaro Tirado Mejía, Dean Claudio Grossman, 1st Vice President; the Amb. Edith Márquez Rodríguez, Executive Secretary and lawyer Milton Castillo met in Brasilia with the President of the Republic, Fernando Henrique Cardoso; the Minister of Foreign Relations, Luiz Felipe Lampreia; the Secretary General of Foreign Relations, Sebastiao do Rego Barros; the Minister of Justice, Nelson Jobim; the President of the Federal Supreme Court, Jose Paulo Sepulveda Pertence; the President of the Chamber of Deputies, Federal Deputy Luis Eduardo Magalhaes; the Attorney General of the Republic, Geraldo Brindeiro; the Federal Attorney for Citizens' Rights and Deputy Attorney General, Alvaro Augusto Ribero Costa; the President of the Chamber of Deputies Commission on Human Rights, Federal Deputy Nilmario Miranda and its Vice President, Federal Deputy Helio Bicudo; the Second Vice President of the Senate, Senator Julio Campos; the Chief of the Foreign Ministry's Department of Human Rights and Social Matters, Minister Jose Augusto Lindgren Alves; the Coordinator of the National Council for Defense of the Rights of the Human Person, Humberto Espinola; and the Secretary of Citizens' Rights at the Ministry of Justice, Luiza Nagib Eluf.
During its stay in Brasilia, the Commission also met with: the Forum Against Violence in the Field; the National Movement of Street Children (both boys and girls); the National Human Rights Movement; the Institute for Socioeconomic Studies; the Indian Council; the Confederation of Agricultural Workers; the Order of Lawyers of Brazil; the Comision Pastoral de la Tierra; the Landless Rural Workers' Movement; Brazil's National Conference of Bishops, chaired by its Secretary General, Raymundo Damasceno Assis; and spokesmen for other nongovernmental organizations.
In Sao Paulo, the second group including the 1st Vice President of the IACHR, Dr. Oscar Luján Fappiano and Dean Claudio Grossman, member of the Commission, Dra. Martha Braga, senior lawyer of the Commission and coordinator of the in-site visit, and the assistant lawyer, Felipe Sánchez, had interviews with the Governor of the State, Mario Covas; the President of the Military Justice Tribunal, Col. Antonio Augusto Neves; the Secretary of State and Citizens' Defense, Belisario dos Santos Junior; the Secretary of Public Safety, Jose Alfonso Silva; the Ombudsman of the Civil and Military Police, Benedito Domingos Mariano; and the Secretary of Prison Administration, Joao Benedicto Azevedo Marquez. The commission visited the Criminological Observation Center; the Women's Penitentiary and the Carandiru House of Detention; and the Third District Police Headquarters. Meetings were also held with nongovernmental human rights organizations and other representative groups of Sao Paulo society.
In addition, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights met with the following nongovernmental organizations, among others: the Santo Dias Human Rights Center of the Archdiocese of Sao Paulo; the University of Sao Paulo Core Group on Studies of Violence; the Rural Landless Workers Movement; the State Council on the Defense of Human Rights; the Women's Union; the Union of Family Members of the Deceased and Disappeared Persons; the Teutonio Vilela Human Rights Commission; the National Human Rights Movement; and the Sao Paulo Division of the ABC Center for the Defense of Young Children and Adolescents.
The first and second groups met in Rio de Janeiro, where meetings were held with the Deputy Governor and Head of the Casa Civil, Luiz Paulo Correa; the Attorney General of Justice, Hamilton Carvalhido; the Secretary of Public Safety, General Milton Cerqueira; the Secretary of Justice, Appeals Court Judge Jorge Fernando Loretti; and Civil Police Chief Helio Luz. The groups also met with representatives of nongovernmental organizations, such as CEPIA, CEMINA, REDEH, the State Council of Women's Rights, the Pro-Life Movement, the Mothers of Acari, the Brazilian Center for the Defense of Children and Adolescents, the Nevermore Torture Group, CEAP, the House of Peace and Human Rights Watch/Americas.
The third group integrated by Amb. John Donaldson, 2nd Vice President of the IACHR, Dr. Patrick Robinson, and Dr. Domingo Acevedo, Advisor, covered the cities of Salvador and Recife. In
Salvador it met with the Governor of the State of Bahia, Paulo Ganem Souto; the Secretary of Public Safety, Francisco de Souza Neto; the Secretary of Justice and Human Rights, Ivan Nogueira Brandao; and with the Human Rights Committee of that State's Legislative Assembly. The group also met with representatives of the following nongovernmental organizations: the Justice and Peace Commission of the Archdiocese of Salvador (FEDH); the Mosteiro de Sao Benito de Bahia Social Welfare Service; the Regional Pastoral Earth Committee (CPT); the "Nevermore Torture" Group's Bahia Section; the Legislative Assembly's Committee to Defend the Rights of Women and Human Rights; the Center for the Defense of Minors and Adolescents in Bahia (CEDECA); and the Coordinator of the Unified Black Movement. In Recife, the third group met with the Governor of the State of Pernambuco, Miguel Arraes; the Mayor of the City of Recife, Jarbas Vasconcelos; the Secretary of Public Safety, Antonio de Moraes Andrade Neto; the Secretary of Justice, Roberto M. Moraes; the Commander of the State Military Police, Col. Jorge Luiz de Moura; and the Secretary of Public Safety for the State of Sergipe, Wellington Dantas Mangueira. Meetings were also held with representatives from the following nongovernmental organizations: the Office of the Legal Counsel to Populist Organizations (GAJOP); the Pastoral Earth Committee (CPT); the Dom Helder Studies and Social Action Center (CENDHEC); the Justice and Peace Community Service; Reassume Responsibility for your Life; and the National Street Children Minors Act.
The fourth group integrated by Dr. David Padilla, Deputy Executive Secretary of the IACHR, and by Dr. Osvaldo Kreimer, senior lawyer at the IACHR, sent to Para, where it interviewed Governor Almir Gabriel; the President of the High Court of Justice, Chisto Alves; the Attorney General of Justice, Manuel Santino; and with judges and promoters of justice from Rio Maria and Redencao. In Roraima it met with the Governor of the State, Neu de Campos and the Secretary of Public Safety; with the Attorney General of the Republic, Osorio Silva Barboza Sobrino and with the head of the Federal Police Delegation in Roraima. The group also visited the Macuxé and Yanomami Indian Reserves.
In the Indian Areas the Commission's delegation was able to talk with their authorities and members and with staff members of FUNAI, the National Health Care Service and the Federal Police. During this visit the Commission enjoyed the collaboration of the Roraima Indian Council (CIR) and its director, Nelino Gale and legal advisor, Dr. Ana Paola Soto, plus that of the Committee for Creation of the Yanomami Park, which is headed by Claudia Andujar.
During its visit to the south of Para, the group held meetings in Rio Maria, Redencao, Xinguara and Concepcao de Araguaia with officers and members of the Union of Rural Workers in the area, with members of the Pastoral Committees on Earth; with Bishop Aldo Mongiano; with judicial and municipal authorities; and with members of the victims' families and persons whose lives had been threatened. Collaboration was received from Fathers Ricardo Rezende Figueira and Henri Burin de Roziers, the legal advisers and spiritual counselors of those human rights organizations.
Throughout the trip, this delegation was pleased to have the collaboration and company of the Human Rights Department's Director, Dr. Aparecida Pontes and the counselor for the Ministry of Foreign Relations, Dr. Ana Maria Bierrenbach. In Roraima, similar cooperation was tendered by Dr. Isa Pacheco, Director of Demarcation at FUNAI.
5. Press communiqué 12/95, Annual Report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, 1995--OEA/Ser.L/V/II.91, Doc. 7 rev. 28 February 1996, Original Spanish, pages 262-263.
6. The Council for the Defense of the Rights of the Human Person (CDDPH) includes representatives of the foremost Brazilian agencies whose defense of human rights has been most noteworthy, such as: the Brazilian Press Association, the Order of Lawyers of Brazil and the Brazilian Education Association. The Council's mission is to investigate the claims it receives and to verify the respective judicial proceedings, serving as a channel for dialogue between the Ministry of Justice and civil society on the subject of human rights.
7. The Federal Attorney General's Office for Citizens' Rights (PFDC) is the agency that is formally charged with defending citizens' rights in the federal sphere. The PFDC is the organ which ensures that human rights are respected and serves as a sort of ombudsman.
8. Letter dated February 7, 1995 from Luiz Felipe Lampreia, Minister of Foreign Relations of the Federative Republic of Brazil to Cesar Gaviria, Secretary General of the Organization of American States.
9. Unlike the government's older social assistance organizations, the "Solidarity Community" program has a council made up of ministers of state and private sector representatives. Together, these persons develop and approve projects to solve the problems of needy people. One noteworthy project is the campaign to guarantee that all persons are listed on the civil registry and that funds are transferred to the poorest cities; another project is to make people aware of the importance of implementing the Statute on Childhood and Adolescence. The "Solidarity Community" program also developed the "Solidarity University" project through which university students serve as volunteers in needy regions and bring them know-how and service as society's agents. The volunteers are given prior instruction, receive educational materials (pamphlets and videos) and then go to the needy cities to promote health education and encourage people to work together to solve local problems. This upcoming experience of the "Solidarity University" should include material for public information about the human rights set out in the constitution and in international instruments.
10. In 1995, the Department of Human Rights and Social Issues was also created within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.