Brazil and Amnesty Clash

     Brazil and Amnesty Clash

    Brazil’s National Indian
    Foundation disputes the figures presented
    in an Amnesty International report about assassinations of Indians
    in Brazil. The Funai call the report fallacious and acknowledges
    only five murders caused by land disputes. The Indian Foundation

    also accuses Amnesty of basing its conclusion on unreliable sources.
    by: Luciana
    Vasconcelos

    Brazzil
Picture

    Interruptions in the process of demarcating Indian territories are the major
    cause of violence practiced against Indians in Brazil, according to a report
    released on May 27 by Amnesty International, which reports 23 assassinations
    resulting from land disputes in 2003.

    The Funai (Fundação
    Nacional do Índio—National Indian Foundation) and the Cimi (Conselho
    Missionário Indígena—Indigenous Missionary Council) agree
    with the diagnosis, but not with the number of Indians killed.

    The Funai’s press office
    informed that the figures presented in the Amnesty International report are
    fallacious. The Foundation acknowledges only five murders caused by land disputes
    and says that the Amnesty report lacks reliable sources.

    The Cimi is one of the
    organizations responsible for the data included in the Amnesty report. The
    vice-president of the Commission, Saulo Feitosa, questioned the Funai’s argument
    and disclosed that the number provided by the Cimi to Amnesty is larger: 31
    deaths as a result of land disputes in 2003. "We back the number in the
    Amnesty report, because, of the 31 we denounced, some are still missing and
    cannot be classified as dead," he said.

    350 Prospectors Disappeared

    The Prospectors Union
    of the state of Rondônia, in northern Brazil, appeared before the Chamber
    of Deputies, in Brasília, on May 28, to denounce the disappearance
    of 350 prospectors on the Roosevelt Reserve, where a recent dispute between
    Cinta-Larga Indians and prospectors resulted in 29 deaths. According to union
    president Paulo Roberto Borges, the government must act quickly to prevent
    more deaths.

    District Court Judge Leonel
    Pereira da Rocha told the hearing in the Chamber that 65 deaths on the reserve
    have been registered since 2001 and there are reports of a clandestine cemetery
    where 100 corpses are buried.

    According to the judge,
    local courts have had difficulties in executing arrest warrants and interrogating
    Indians who live in the reserve. In his opinion, the National Indian Foundation
    (Funai) has gotten in the way of investigations.

    Rocha calls for federal
    government intervention on the reserve. He claims that the Cinta-Larga Indians
    on the Roosevelt Indian Reserve are heavily armed. "As long as the Indians
    continue to be armed, the conflicts will continue," he affirmed.

    Deputy Miguel de Souza,
    from the state of Roraima, filed a formal motion in the Chamber to form a
    Parliamentary Investigation Commission (CPI) to look into the matter and got
    the president of the Chamber, João Paulo Cunha, from São Paulo,
    to agree to the creation of a special Commission to analyze all projects dealing
    with the Indian question in the Chamber.

    The Funai, the Environmental
    Protection Agency (Ibama) and the Federal Police are moving into action in
    a Caiapós Indian reservation area near São Felix do Xingu, in
    the state of Pará. The objective of the joint operation is to remove
    gold prospectors from the Indian area.

    The regional director
    of the Funai, Megaron Txukarramãe, says that the Caiapós are
    irritated by the presence of the prospectors and that there may be conflict
    although an attempt to resolve the problem peacefully is underway. "This
    is not good for the prospectors, it is not good for us, so it is best for
    them to leave and not come back," he said.

    There have been reports
    of prospectors in the area since January. A prospector camp was sighted on
    May 28 by a Funai-Federal Police helicopter, along with airstrips used by
    the invaders. Txukarramâe says he will ask the police to bomb the airstrip
    so it can no longer be used.

    The Caiapós reservation
    dates from 1992. It is inhabited by some 4,000 Indians.

    Torture and Justice

    In a related subject,
    Minister Nilmário Miranda, of the Special Secretariat for Human Rights,
    declared in an official note that there is a growing number of court convictions,
    trials, and investigations involving police and government officials accused
    of committing the crime of torture.

    "There are currently
    240 people convicted by lower courts in Brazil of crimes of torture,"
    he informed. In his opinion this is already an indication that the Brazilian
    judicial system is not unresponsive to the phenomenon.

    The note was in response
    to a report issued in London by Amnesty International, condemning the existence
    of torture, assassinations committed by police, and violence against rural
    workers and Indians in Brazil.

    The Minister admitted
    there is still a long way to go, but he argues that significant progress has
    been made in recent years. "The federalization of crimes against human
    rights, a measure in the Judicial Reform that gives federal courts jurisdiction
    to try and judge crimes against human rights, is already a victory,"
    he said.

    Another important item,
    in his opinion, is the homologation (final approval) of 82 percent of Indian
    territories in Brazil over the years. "In the year and a half since this
    Administration took office, 33 territories were homologated," he recalled.

    Another measure that the
    federal government plans to adopt by 2006, through the Special Secretariat
    for Human Rights, is the Police Auditors program, in partnership with the
    European Community, which will contribute US$ 6.35 million (20 million reais)
    to the project.

    The Auditors Offices are
    available for citizens to denounce crimes. The purpose of the project is the
    perfection of external mechanisms to control police violence by strengthening
    and disseminating the work done by Auditors Offices throughout Brazil.

    Amnesty International
    considers the Disarmament Statute edited by the government to control the
    possession and sale of small arms a first step in the campaign against violence.


    Luciana Vasconcelos works for Agência Brasil (AB), the official press
    agency of the Brazilian government. Comments are welcome at lia@radiobras.gov.br.

    Translated
    from the Portuguese by David Silberstein.

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