The American continent is among the most dangerous regions for human rights defenders

Amnesty International report shows that Brazil and some of its neighboring countries make it difficult for HR defenders

Translated by: Ana Paula Rocha

Brasil de Fato | São Paulo |
In Brazil, Indigenous peoples are targeted for their defence of the environment and territories - Acervo CGY

The American continent is among the most dangerous places in the world for human rights defenders. Brazil is among the countries in the region where the situation is most serious. That’s what the global report The State of Human Rights in the World, published on Wednesday (24) by Amnesty International, points out.

According to the document, human rights defenders working to protect land and the environment faced “growing risks” in 2023, particularly Black, Indigenous and female activists. In addition to Brazil, Bolivia, Canada, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras and Mexico are listed as the American countries presenting the highest number of threats.

Although the survey does not mention specific cases in Brazil, the deaths of Sebastiana Gauto and Rufino Velasque, a couple of Guarani and Kaiowá rezadores (prayers who use traditional knowledge) can be remembered. They were found dead and charred in the house where they lived in the indigenous community of Guassuty, in Mato Grosso do Sul in September last year.

According to Amnesty International, “governments and non-state actors have used a variety of tools, such as harassment, stigmatization, criminalization and murder to prevent human rights activists from carrying out their essential and legitimate work in countries such as Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru and Venezuela."

The report published on Wednesday also points to a series of other rights violations committed in Brazil. The document, which provides data on the human rights situation in 156 countries, warns of police violence in Brazil, and highlights the period between July and September 2023, when a series of police operations caused at least 394 deaths in the states of Bahia, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.

“About the use of police force, the situation is out of control. It starts with the agency constitutionally responsible for controlling police activity [in Brazil], the Public Prosecutor's Office, being silent and inoperative in the face of serious human rights violations committed by state agents, which ends up with cases of police lethality not being brought to justice. The state reiterates the message that police have carte blanche to kill and commit other violations, especially against Black and poor communities,” says Jurema Werneck, the executive director of Amnesty International Brazil. 

The report also points out that the Brazilian state continues to ignore measures to reduce police violence, such as body cams, for instance. The document also highlights that the abuse of police force is a well-known problem in countries such as Argentina, Canada, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Mexico, Peru, Puerto Rico and the USA, and that disproportionate force is often used with a racist bias.

More violence

The document published on Wednesday also talks about a series of other violations that marked countries in 2023. Regarding gender-based violence, for example, it stressed the fact that at least 19 people had died as a result of unsafe abortion procedures in Brazil by July 2023.

Violence committed against Indigenous peoples is also mentioned and, once again, Brazil is one of the countries with the most cases, such as the public health crisis experienced by the Yanomami people. The full document is available here.

Edited by: Matheus Alves de Almeida