Last Updated: Friday, 25 July 2014, 10:06 GMT

Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2005 - Brazil

Publisher International Federation for Human Rights
Publication Date 22 March 2006
Cite as International Federation for Human Rights, Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2005 - Brazil, 22 March 2006, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48747cb51f.html [accessed 25 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Assassinations of and assassination attempts against human rights defenders

Assassination of Sister Dorothy Mae Stang19

On 12 February 2005, Sister Dorothy Mae Stang, a missionary, representative of the Pastoral Land Commission (Comissão Pastoral da Tierra – CPT) and an activist of the National Human Rights Movement (Movimento Nacional de Direitos Humanos – MNDH), was shot dead on her way to a meeting for the Esperança Sustainable Development Project (Projeto de Desenvolvimento Sustentável – PDS), in the State of Pará.

Sister Dorothy Mae Stang had already received death threats in the past from landowners of the region. She had been granted citizenship by the State of Pará and, on 10 December 2004, she had been awarded the Human Rights Prize of the Brazilian Bar Association (Ordem dos Advogados do Brasil – OAB), Pará section.

Under national and international pressure, a specialised federal police team was created to work with the police in Pará in order to identify the perpetrators of this assassination.

On 9 and 10 December 2005, the two alleged perpetrators, Mr. Rayfran das Neves Sales and Mr. Clodoaldo Carlos Batista, were respectively sentenced to 27 and 17 years of prison by the Belém Court of the State of Pará. The two men had reportedly acted on the order of Mr. Vitalino Bastos de Moura and Mr. Dnair Freijó da Cunha, landowners who had taken over lands belonging to PDS-Esperança after violently evicting workers and their families. The two landowners were taken into custody and are to be judged in 2006.

Assassination of Mr. Rossini Alves Couto20

On 10 May 2005, Mr. Rossini Alves Couto, a member of the Pernambuco State Public Prosecutor's office and a dedicated human rights defender, was having lunch in the city of Cupira with two friends when two men got out of their vehicle and fired on him. Mr. Rossini Alves Couto was declared dead upon his arrival at the hospital.

Assassination of Mr. João Araújo Guajajara and death threats against several leaders of the Guajajara community21

On 21 May 2005, Mr. João Araújo Guajajara, chief of the Guajajara indigenous community, was assassinated by a dozen armed men in the village of Kamihaw, Grajaú, in the State of Maranhão, where he lived. The killers also injured his son, Mr. Wilson Araújo Guajajara, raped his daughter, and burned down his house.

On 18 May 2005, Mr. Guajajara had lodged a complaint with the Grajaú police station concerning threats made against his community by Mr. Milton Alves Rocha, a farmer, who had ordered their eviction from the area called "Bacurizinho", in the city of Grajaú, by the end of May.

Mr. Milton Alves Rocha and his two sons were arrested on 24 May 2005, and then released on 30 June 2005 by order of the Maranhão State Court of Justice. The three men, as well as members of the indigenous community, were summoned on 14 July 2005 by the Grajaú Prosecutor.

Mr. José Arão Marizê Lopes, Mr. Maruzan Kamura'y, Mr. Alderico Lopes, Mr. Wilson Araújo Guajajara, Mr. Edimar Mendes Guajajara and Mrs. Judite Marizê Lopes, leaders of the Guajajara community, also received death threats from Mr. Milton Alves Rocha and his two sons all throughout 2005.

During these events, Mrs. Maria de Jesús Fernández, a missionary for the Missionary Indigenous Council (Conselho Indigenista Missionário – CIMI), was followed by one of the alleged murderers.

Assassination attempt against Mr. Cláudio Pereira da Silva22

On 8 September 2005, Mr. Cláudio Pereira da Silva, president of the Quilombo Piranhas Remanescente community of 70 Afro-descendant families, in the city of Bom Jésus da Lapa, State of Bahia, was the victim of an assassination attempt by three caciques,23 Mr. Augusto Rodrigues da Silva, Mr. Sebastião Rodrigues da Silva and Mr. Inácio Rodrigues da Silva, who fired on him several times. Mr. Pereira da Silva lodged a complaint.

By the end of 2005, the investigation had not been successfully concluded and Mr. Pereira da Silva had not received any protection, despite his request to the Federal Prosecutor.

Assassination of Mr. Jair Antonio da Costa24

On 10 October 2005, Mr. Jair Antonio da Costa, leader of the Igrejinha Shoemakers' Union, died as a result of the injuries he suffered by six military police officers during a demonstration organised by the trade unions of the Vale dos Sinos region, in the State of Rio Grande Do Sul. The demonstrators were protesting against the loss of more than 13,000 jobs in the State shoe industry in 2005.

Mr. Jair da Costa was identified by the six police officers as one of the leaders of the movement and was pursued, handcuffed, and beaten. Taken to the hospital by the police officers, he was declared dead upon his arrival there.

The police officers accused of having killed Mr. da Costa were: soldier José Paulo de Brito, sergeants Marcos Antonio de Souza and Alexandre Aguilar Torres, lieutenant Ademilson Gonçalves da Silva, and the captain of the military brigade, Marlon Carvalho da Silva, who was in command of the operation. Arrested on 18 October 2005, they were released on 10 November 2005 following a ruling by the Supreme Court of Justice, which stated that "there [was] no concrete evidence justifying the need to keep them in custody".

By the end of 2005, the judicial proceedings against the soldiers remained pending, but no date had been set for a hearing.

Assassination of Mr. Cláudio Alves dos Santos25

On 17 October 2005, Mr. Cláudio Alves dos Santos, a member of the Reference Centre Against Violence and Discrimination Against Homosexuals (Centro de Referência contra a Violência e Discriminação ao Homossexual – CERCONVIDH), disappeared in Rio de Janeiro. Three days later, his body was found, bearing numerous marks of torture. The police subsequently opened an investigation.

CERCONVIDH has received threats on a regular basis, because of its activities in the defence of human rights.

Assassination of Mr. Pedro Laurindo da Silva26

On 17 November 2005, Mr. Pedro Laurindo da Silva, a member of the Federation of Agricultural Workers (Federação dos Trabalhadores na Agricultura – FETAGRI), leader of the Marabá Union of Rural Workers (Sindicato dos Trabalhadores Rurais – STR) in the southwest of the State of Pará, and coordinator of the "Zumbi dos Palmares II" settlement, was assassinated by two bullets in the head. He was then on his way to STR headquarters in Marabá, where he had been staying during a seminar on violence and human rights in the State of Pará, organised by the Society for the Defence of Human Rights (Sociedade Paraense de Defesa dos Direitos Humanos).

During this seminar, Mr. Laurindo da Silva had denounced the acts of violence committed in May 2005 by the Marabá military police during the eviction of the families of the "Zumbi dos Palmares" settlement, who were claiming ownership of the "Cabo de Aço" Hacienda. Mr. Laurindo da Silva had also stated, in March 2005, before the members of the National Programme for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (Programa Nacional de Proteção dos Defensores de Direitos Humanos), that he had received death threats from the members of the Hacienda, which was corroborated by the testimony of other members of the community. However, he had not received any protection following his denunciations.

A plain-clothes police officer that was near the scene of the crime saw the shooter, Mr. Valdemir Coelho de Oliveira, and arrested him.

By the end of 2005, the investigation into Mr. Valdemir Coelho de Oliveira's case was closed, and the judge was waiting for the decision of the Public Prosecutor's office before deciding to prosecute him. The investigation into the persons responsible for planning the assassination was still pending.

Those behind the assassination of Mr. João Canuto de Oliveira still at large27

On 23 May 2003, Mr. Adilson Laranjeira, former mayor of Rio Maria, and Mr. Vantuir de Paula, a farmer, had been sentenced to 19 years and 10 months in prison by the Belém Popular Jury Court for having ordered the assassination of Mr. João Canuto de Oliveira, president of the Trade Union of Rio Maria Rural Workers, in 1985. However, on the order of the judge, the convicts had been released on bail during consideration of the appeal request filed by their attorneys, under the Fleury Act (1973), which states that a first-time convict can remain free during the appeal process.

On 14 September 2004, the Court of Justice of the State of Pará (Tribunal de Justiça do Estado do Pará – TJE) had unanimously rejected this request. On 8 October 2004, the convicts had appealed this decision to the High Court of Justice (Superior Tribunal de Justiça) and the Federal Supreme Court (Supremo Tribunal Federal), in Brasília.

On 28 March 2005, the Supreme Court confirmed the sentence of Mr. Vantuir de Paula, but the arrest warrants against him and Mr. Laranjeira were not delivered by the TJE until 12 July 2005. On that day, the two authors of the crime, apparently warned of their imminent arrest, fled.

The appeal filed by Mr. Laranjeira with the Federal Supreme Court was rejected in September 2005.

On 27 October 2005, a programme on the television channel Globo, which covers an ongoing criminal investigation each week, reported on the escape of the criminals and broadcast their pictures. Following this programme, the son of Mr. Vantuir directly threatened with death, during a meeting, Brother Henri Burin des Roziers, a lawyer and defender of the rights of the landless, who played a prominent role in the sentencing of the two criminals, Mrs. Luisa Canuto, Mr. João Canuto's sister, and Mr. Orlando Canuto, one of his brothers.

By the end of 2005, the two men responsible for this assassination were still at large. Furthermore, Brother Henri Burin des Roziers was still threatened, and placed under police protection.

Impunity for the assassination of three workers' rights lawyers28

On 28 January 2004, unknown assailants shot dead in the head Mr. Erastótenes de Almeida Gonçalves, Mr. Nelson José da Silva and Mr. João Batista Soares Lage, three lawyers from the Brazilian Ministry of Labour, in Unaí, State of Minas Gerais. At the time, they were on their way to the property of a major landowner (fazendeiro) of the State of Minas Gerais in order to investigate into a slavery case. Mr. Aílton Pereira de Oliveira, driver of the delegation, had been seriously injured, and died several hours later in the Brasília hospital.

On 25 and 26 July 2004, following a joint investigation by the federal, civil and military police in cooperation with the federal Public Prosecutor's department, six suspects had been arrested: Mr. Francisco Elder Pinheiro, who had allegedly hired the murderers; Messrs. Erinaldo de Vasconcelos Silva, Rogério Alan Rocha Rios, and William Gomes de Miranda, the men who actually carried out the assassination; as well as the alleged intermediaries who are believed to have made the payments, Mr. Hugo Alves Pimenta and Mr. José Alberto de Castro. Through a connection that was established between Mr. Pimenta and the Mânica brothers, major agricultural producers in the region, Mr. Norberto Mânica had been identified as the person responsible for the assassination of the three lawyers, one of whom – Mr. Nelson José da Silva – had fined him for failing to respect working conditions on his property. Mr. Norberto Mânica had been arrested on 13 August 2004, and had also been charged with threatening the three members of the Ministry of Labour in December 2003.

On 30 August 2004, the Federal Prosecutor of the State of Minas Gerais had charged these seven people, as well as Mr. Humbeto Ribeiro dos Santos, with "participating in the death of the three lawyers and of the driver of the delegation".

On 10 December 2004, Judge Francisco de Assis Betti of the 9th Federal Court of Belo Horizonte (State of Minas Gerais) had ruled that all the defendants (with the exception of Mr. Ribeiro dos Santos) would be tried by a popular jury for "homicide" and "forming a criminal group". Other landowners in the region may also have been involved in the assassination.

On 21 December 2004, Mr. Mânica had submitted a habeas corpus with the High Court of Justice , but the Court had refused to release him. On 15 August 2005, Mr. Mânica again applied for a habeas corpus with the Federal Supreme Court, which ruled in favour of his release on 30 August 2005. By the end of 2005, the judicial proceedings against Mr. Mânica were still pending, but he remained free.

Acts of harassment against defenders of the landless

Threats and attacks against Mr. Gilce Freire, Mr. Markus Breuss and Mrs. Naira Rois29

On 28 August 2005, farmers from the Santa Helena de Minas region, acting under the orders of the landowners Messrs. Rubens, Roni and Antonio Camargo, threatened and attacked three missionaries for the Missionary Indigenous Council (CIMI), Mr. Gilce Freire, Mr. Markus Breuss and his wife, Mrs. Naira Rois, in the State of Minas Gerais, accusing them of organising the repossession of land by the indigenous Maxakali people, on 18 August 2005. The intervention of the military police prevented the situation from degenerating. Nonetheless, by the end of 2005, these three people had not been granted any protection.

Appeal hearing of three MST leaders30

On 16 December 2004, at the appeal hearing of Messrs. Ivo Ribeiro Avila, Sein Alceu Becker and Leonir Volmar de Oliveira, three leaders of the Landless Rural Workers' Movement (Movimiento de los Trabajadores Rurales Sin Tierra – MST) of the State of Rio Grande do Sul (RS), one of the three judges had requested a far more lenient sentence (one year and eight months of imprisonment). The lawyers of the three men had appealed against this decision before the Court of Justice.

A hearing took place on 24 June 2005. By the end of 2005, the three men were still free. However, no information could be obtained concerning the progress in their trial.

Mr. Ivo Ribeiro Avila, Mr. Sein Alceu Becker and Mr. Leonir Volmar de Oliveira had been sentenced on 7 March 2003 by Judge Andréa Rezende Russo of the Piratini Tribunal (RS) to nine years in prison and one year of special detention for the "crime of extortion through kidnapping" and "seizure of property", after participating in the occupation of the "Rubira" agricultural property in Piratini in 1998, along with 2,000 landless farmers. At that time, a group of farmers had been arrested by the police, leading those occupying the property to hold two police officers in an attempt to peacefully negotiate the release of the farmers taken into custody.

Arrest of the person responsible for the attack on a MST settlement31

By the end of 2005, Mr. Adriano Chafick Luedy, the fazendeiro under whose orders 18 shooters had attacked, on 20 November 2004, a MST settlement known as Promised Land, in Felisburgo, Vallée de Jequitinhonha (Minas Gerais), remained detained.

At that time, five landless farmers, leaders of the settlement, were assassinated, and twenty others injured.

In January 2005, Mr. Chafick Luedy was arrested for the first time, before being released in April 2005 by order of the High Court of Justice. He continued to threaten and harass the inhabitants of the settlement all throughout the year before he was arrested for a second time, at the request of the Prosecutor.

Threats and acts of harassment against several defenders

Ongoing threats against Mrs. Maria Joelma Dias da Costa32

By the end of 2005, Mrs. Maria Joelma Dias da Costa, STR president and widow of Mr. José Dutra da Costa, former president of the Rondon do Pará STR who was assassinated on 21 November 2000, continued to be regularly harassed and threatened with death. Furthermore, the person allegedly responsible for the assassination of her husband, the fazendeiro Mr. José Décio Barroso Nunes, was released, although the judicial proceedings against him were still underway.

As for Mr. Welington de Jesus da Silva, the hired murderer (pistoleiro), he was taken into custody awaiting sentence, which should take place as soon as the Pará Court of Justice requests a transfer of the jury to Bélem.

Threats, acts of harassment and intimidation against several members of ACAT-Brazil33

Mrs. Isabel Peres, coordinator of the Brazilian section of the Christians' Action for the Abolition of Torture (Ação dos Cristãos para a Abolição da Tortura – ACAT-Brazil), and lawyers Mssrs. Francisco Lúcio França, ACAT-Brazil volunteer, and José de Jesus Filho, were subjected to acts of intimidation following their participation in the criminal trial, held in Mongaguá, in the State of São Paulo, from 21 to 23 March 2005, of two members of the military police, Mr. Mauricio Miranda and Mr. Silvio Ricardo Monteiro Batista, who were charged with "homicide", "concealment of a body", and "abuse of power".

On 21 March 2005, Mr. Lúcio França and Mr. Jesus Filho were followed by a black car in Mongaguá. On 25 March 2005, once back in São Paulo, Mr. Lúcio França noticed that he was being followed by a man, who approached him, claiming to be a police officer belonging to a death squad, and threatened him with death if he continued to work on the trial. He added that "someone else might take care of the contract, since he did not work alone".

On 26 March 2005, Mrs. Isabel Peres, who was still in Mongaguá, was also followed by a black vehicle as she travelled around the city.

An investigation was opened by the police following a complaint lodged by these three persons on 19 April 2005, but by the end of 2005, it had not produced any results yet.

As of the end of 2005, these three people had not received any further threats.

Moreover, under strong national and international pressure, in April 2005 the authorities granted precautionary measures of protection to Mrs. Peres, Mr. França and Mr. Filho, which they refused due to the constraints that such measures would impose.

Harassment campaign against Mrs. Maria Conceição Andrade Paganele Santos34

All throughout 2005, Mrs. Maria Conceição Andrade Paganele Santos, president of the Association of Mothers and Friends of Children and Teenagers in Danger (Associação de Mães e Amigos da Criança e do Adolescente em Risco – AIMER), was subjected to threats and various acts of harassment because of her denunciations of physical and psychological torture against teenagers living at the São Paulo boarding house of the Federal Foundation for the Well-Being of Children (Fundação Estadual do Bem-Estar do Menor – FEBEM).

On 27 June 2005, Mrs. Andrade Paganele Santos was thus threatened by FEBEM staff members while she was participating in the São Paulo Civil Society Forum. She was also followed several times as she went around in the city. She lodged a complaint with the 81st police station in São Paulo, which opened an investigation. Nonetheless, by the end of 2005, the perpetrator of these threats and acts of harassment had not been identified yet.

Furthermore, after a rebellion on 17 November 2005 by the FEBEM adolescents against the ill-treatment to which they were subjected, which had led to the death of one of them, Mrs. Maria Conceição Andrade and Mr. Ariel de Castro, a lawyer and representative of the National Human Rights Movement (Movimento Nacional de Direitos Humanos), were the victims of a large defamation campaign led by the Governor of the State of São Paulo and the president of the São Paulo section of FEBEM, accusing them of having incited the rebellion.


[Refworld note: This report as posted on the FIDH website (www.fidh.org) was in pdf format with country chapters run together by region. Footnote numbers have been retained here, so do not necessarily begin at 1.]

19. See Press Release, 16 February 2005.

20. See Report by Justiça Global and Terra de Direitos, Na Linha de Frente: Defensores de direitos humanos no Brasil, 2002-2005, December 2005.

21. See Urgent Appeal BRA 001/0705/050.

22. See Report by Justiça Global and Terra de Direitos, Na Linha de Frente: Defensores de direitos humanos no Brasil, 2002-2005, December 2005.

23. People working in the logging industry, who are very influential at the local level.

24. See Report by Justiça Global and Terra de Direitos, Na Linha de Frente: Defensores de direitos humanos no Brasil, 2002-2005, December 2005.

25. Idem.

26. See Urgent Appeal BRA 002/1105/115.

27. See Annual Report 2004.

28. Idem.

29. See Report by Justiça Global and Terra de Direitos, Na Linha de Frente: Defensores de direitos humanos no Brasil, 2002-2005, December 2005.

30. See Closed Letter to the Brazilian authorities, 23 June 2005.

31. See Annual Report 2004.

32. Idem.

33. See Open Letter to the Brazilian authorities, 19 April 2005.

34. See Report by Justiça Global and Terra de Direitos, Na Linha de Frente: Defensores de direitos humanos no Brasil, 2002-2005, December 2005.

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