UN agency wants probe of Brazil prison violence

January 9, 2014

The Associated Press, 1/8/2014

The United Nation’s human rights agency called Wednesday for an “immediate, impartial and effective investigation” into the violence that has swept through a penitentiary in northeastern Brazil where at least 60 inmates were killed in 2013 in clashes between rival gangs.

Violence from the prisons has spilled onto the streets of Sao Luis, the capital of Maranhao state where the prison is located. Police say imprisoned gang leaders angered by authorities attempted crackdowns inside the prison ordered their members to spark terror by setting buses ablaze and shooting up the outside of police stations.

A 6-year-old girl died this week after being severely burned during one bus attack. Gas stations in the city largely complied with a police request to halt the sale of fuel to anyone wanting to fill-up a gas canister, hoping to squeeze off gangs’ ability to buy flammable liquids used to torch buses.

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Brazil’s Rousseff: NSA spying violated human rights

September 25, 2013

Aamer Madhani – USA Today, 09/24/2013

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff used her address before the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday to sharply criticize the United States over allegations that the National Security Agency has spied on her government.

Rousseff, who spoke before President Obama had arrived in the hall for today’s meeting of world leaders, said the United States violated human rights and international law through its surveillance programs, which she said illegally captured Brazilians’ communications, including her own e-mails.

“We face … a situation of grave violation of human rights and of civil liberties; of invasion and capture of confidential information concerning corporate activities, and especially of disrespect to national sovereignty of my country,” Rousseff said.

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Losing the land war

September 10, 2013

Lunae Parracho – Reuters, 09/09/2013

Three-year-old Sandriely has a look of suffering. She was born in the roadside camp along the same highway where her brother was run over by a truck. Her grandmother Damiana Cavanha, one of the few women chiefs among the Guarani Indians, has lost, beside her grandson, five other family members: one aunt died of poisoning from pesticides used on the neighboring sugar cane plantation, and her husband and three of their children were hit and killed by passing vehicles.

Damiana, Sandriely, and 23 other Guarani Kaiowa Indians are living in a makeshift camp along the shoulder of highway BR-463 in Mato Grosso do Sul since 2009. They settled here after their last failed attempt to take back their ancestral land, called Tekohá Apika’y. (Tekohá is loosely translated as ancestral land, and Apika’y, the name of that specific plot, means “those who wait.”) That was four years ago when they were expelled from their land by gunmen who shot one of them.

A federal prosecutor visited the camp back then, and wrote in a report, “Children, youths, adults and the elderly are subjected to degrading conditions against human dignity. The situation experienced by them is analogous to a refugee camp. They are like foreigners in their own country.”

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Focus on Indigenous peoples’ rights and police violence in Brazil

August 5, 2013

Amnesty International, 08/05/2013

Indigenous peoples’ rights and police violence are the focus of a High Level Mission (HLM) by Amnesty International’s Secretary General, Salil Shetty, this week in Brazil.

He will be meeting with top politicians and officials to discuss an array of human rights abuses and violations which need to be addressed.

“Given the deep stated commitment of the people and Government of Brazil to realising all human rights of all Brazilians and its growing importance on the international stage, it is imperative that Brazil takes concrete steps to improve the state of human rights in the country,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.

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Brazil policemen tried over Carandiru jail massacre

July 30, 2013

BBC, 07/28/2013

The trial has begun in Brazil of 26 policemen accused of killing dozens of inmates during a prison riot in Sao Paulo in 1992.

Witnesses say riot police began shooting at random as they stormed the Carandiru prison.

In half-an-hour, 111 prisoners were killed in what became known as the Carandiru massacre. The policemen currently facing trial are accused of killing 73 prisoners on the second floor of the jail.

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Syria in free fall

July 30, 2013

Statement by MR. Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro to the UN General Assemby, 07/29/2013

Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, Chair of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, presented a disturbing description  of Syria’s national tragedy  in a speech delivered yesterday (29) to the United Nation General Assembly.  Although no negotiated solutions seems  possible, he warned that “there is no military solution” to the country’s civil war.  A Brazilian legal scholars, Pinheiro was Brazil’s National Secretary for Human Rights in the Cardoso government  and  member of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission during the Lula and the Rousseff administrations.

”Relentless shelling has killed thousands of civilians and displaced the populations of entire towns. An untold number of men and women have disappeared while passing through the ubiquitous checkpoints. Those freed from detention are living with the physical and mental scars of torture. Hospitals have been bombarded, leaving the sick and wounded to languish without care. With the destruction of thousands of schools, a generation of children now struggle to obtain an education. The country has become a battlefield. Its civilians are repeatedly victims of acts of terror,” said Pinheiro, an Adjunct Professor of International Studies at the Watson Institute for International Studies, Brown University, and  Research Associate at the University of São Paulo  Center for the Study of Violence.

“4.5 million people have been internally displaced. As the war rages on, 18 million people remain in their homes inside Syria. These families are the first providers of humanitarian aid to their fellow citizens. The estimated cost of the conflict to Syria’s economy is between 60 to 80 billion dollars, a third of its pre-war GDP. Over 2.5 million Syrians are now unemployed and struggling to survive.”

Rio’s cops get tolerance tutorial

June 7, 2013

Mac Margolis – Newsweek, 06/07/2013

Back in 2002, when he was head of Civil Police in Rio de Janeiro, Zaqueu Teixeira caused a minor social earthquake. A group of streetwalkers had been complaining of being roughed up in the streets, and Teixeira decided to investigate. “I brought them into the station to hear their story,” he says. “The entire police command was in shock.” Not only were the victims prostitutes, they were also transvestites—second-class citizens to many Brazilians. Not least to Rio’s cops.

What a difference a decade makes. This week, a group of 50 of Rio’s finest filed into an auditorium in the art deco building that houses the state secretariat of public security for a morning of lectures, debate, and culture shock. This was the latest round of a special training seminar designed to instruct career officers on how to serve and protect a burgeoning Brazilian demographic: the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community.

Rio’s top brass was there, as were public safety secretary José Mariano Beltrame and a handful of other Rio grandees. “Everybody behaved. No one offended anyone else or made ugly faces,” says Jane di Castro, a transvestite singer, who performed the national anthem, danced in the aisles and joked with police at the gathering. “Imagine police taking up our cause! I was very pleasantly surprised,” confesses the 67-year-old stage artist, who was born Luiz de Castro.

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Vannuchi is elected to the Human Rights Commission of the OAS

June 7, 2013

Renan Ramalho – O Globo, 06/07/2013

Brazil’s Foreign Ministry announced the election of former minister Paulo Vannuchi for a position at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights at the Organization of American States (OAS) this thursday (06/06). Paulo Vanucchi was elected in Guatemala, during an OAS assembly. With headquarters in Washington DC, this branch of the OAS  is responsible for assessing claims and formal complaints pertinent to human rights violations in member countries.

Vannuchi was Minister of the Department of Human Rights from 2005 to 2010, during Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s presidency, and currently serves as the one of the directors at Lula’s institute.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is composed of seven members of the OAS countries. Vannuchi competed for another three positions that will open at the end of the year, running against representatives from Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. José Jesús Orozco Henríquez from Mexico and James Cavallaro from the U.S. were also elected.

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Millions flood Brazil for world’s largest gay pride parade

June 3, 2013

The Telegraph, 06/03/2013

More than three million people have taken part in the world’s largest gay pride parade in Brazil.

The sixteenth annual march in Sao Paulo saw gay, lesbian, bisexual and transvestite activists parade through the city to call for an end to homophobic violence in a carnival of colour and festive music.

Last year, in a landmark case for the Catholic dominated country, Brazil’s Supreme Court legally recognised homosexual partnerships.

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Brazil: states should act on killings by police

November 30, 2012

Human Rights Watch, 11/29/2012

A resolution by Brazil’s Human Rights Defense Council outlines crucial steps needed to reduce unlawful killings by police, Human Rights Watch said today. The resolution calls on law enforcement officials at the state level to ensure that all killings by their police forces are properly investigated.

The council, led by Human Rights Minister Maria do Rosário, issued the resolution on November 28, 2012, following a public consultation with government officials, public security experts, and civil society representatives.

“Police officers in many parts of Brazil face real difficulties and dangers when confronting violent crime, and many of them have lost their lives in the line of duty,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “Unfortunately, their legitimate efforts to enforce the law have often been undermined by other officers who themselves engage in unlawful violence, executing people and falsely claiming their victims died in shootouts.”

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