Brazil: Candidates Should Address Human Rights

(São Paulo) – Candidates for President, Congress, State Legislature and Governor in Brazil’s October 2022 elections are expected to present proposals to address the country’s serious human rights issues. Issues should include police abuses, violence against women and forest defenders, the impact of environmental destruction and the rights of people with disabilities.

“Millions of Brazilians suffer because of serious human rights issues, from structural racism to violence against girls and women, to threats and attacks against forest defenders,” said Tamara Taraciuk Broner, Acting Director for the Americas at Human Rights Watch. “During the election campaign, candidates must present plans to improve the protection of fundamental rights and strengthen the rule of law.”

Human Rights Watch highlighted Brazil’s key human rights challenges and recommendations in its submission to the UN Human Rights Council for the country’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which will take place in November. As part of the UPR process, each country’s human rights record is scrutinized by other countries every five years. Human Rights Watch and others civil society organizations sent submissions as input to the review.

In its statement, Human Rights Watch said Brazilian authorities should strengthen the democratic system and the rule of law by respecting the independence of the judiciary and upholding the right to vote, as well as holding accountable those responsible for serious human rights abuses committed during the country’s 1964 to 1985 dictatorship. Brazil should also strengthen freedom of expression and media, and repeal criminal defamation provisions in the criminal code, Human Rights Watch said.

Candidates must address the very harmful effects of police abuse, which endangers the lives of civilians and police officers and jeopardizes public safety. In 2021, police killed more than 6,100 people, according to state data collected by Brazil’s Public Security Forum. Eighty-four percent of those killed in 2021 were black.

In its statement, Human Rights Watch said authorities should develop a plan to curb police killings across the country, adopt protocols for investigating police abuses that meet international standards, and ensure that independent prosecutors investigate the cases, instead of letting the police investigate themselves. On July 7, UN experts also called on Brazil to ensure effective, independent and timely investigations into police abuses, adopt comprehensive reforms to end police violence and tackle systemic racism. and racial discrimination.

Environmental destruction in the Amazon continues at a dangerous pace that is increasingly pushing Brazil’s rainforest, critical to global environmental protection, towards an irreversible tipping point. Deforestation is largely driven by criminal groups that threaten and attack anyone who stands in their way.

Between August 2020 and July 2021, the latest official annual data, 13,038 square kilometers of Amazon rainforest was clearcut, the largest area since 2006. Multiple surveys have shown that cattle and soy grown in illegally deforested areas of the Amazon frequently make their way. in the global supply chains of large multinationals operating in Brazil.

Applicants must commit to dramatically reducing deforestation, funding and holding environmental authorities accountable, protecting forest defenders, and addressing the role of corporations sourcing agricultural products from deforested protected areas. They should also commit to reclaiming the demarcation of indigenous territories and protecting them from encroachment by savage miners, loggers, and land grabbers, Human Rights Watch said.

Gender-based violence is a widespread problem in Brazil. Additionally, the country’s abortion laws are inconsistent with its human rights obligations, allowing the procedure only in limited situations that restrict women’s sexual and reproductive rights. Candidates should present proposals to improve women’s and girls’ access to justice and protection from violence, and they should support the decriminalization of abortion, Human Rights Watch said.

In its communication, Human Rights Watch also addressed the situation of thousands of children and adults with disabilities who live in institutions, where they are isolated from society, have no meaningful control over their lives, may be victims of abuse and being denied access to education. Applicants must develop plans to phase out institutional use and develop community services for people with disabilities, as well as support inclusive education, Human Rights Watch said.

Presidential candidates should also present foreign policy proposals that consistently uphold human rights around the world, regardless of the ideology of the government in question, Human Rights Watch said. For example, they should condemn the abuses committed by the governments of Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba, crimes against humanity committed by the Chinese government against the Uyghurs and other Turkish Muslims, and the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution committed by the Israeli authorities against millions of Palestinians. They should also support thorough and independent investigations into possible war crimes in Ukraine.

All candidates must campaign with respect for rights, especially in a highly polarized context, and strongly condemn any political intimidation, threats or violence in the run-up to elections. On July 9, a member of the Workers’ Party was shot dead during his birthday party in the state of Paraná, where organizers were expressing their support for the presidential candidacy of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, by a man who, according to the media, shouted support for President Jair Bolsonaro. In a democracy, Brazilians should engage in electoral debates without fear of reprisals for their political views.

“Brazilian voters deserve peaceful elections and a substantive debate on the issues that concern them, especially the protection of their fundamental rights and freedoms,” said Taraciuk Broner. “Candidates must commit to reforms to improve Brazil’s human rights policies and practices.

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