Transcendent Voices: Art and Culture as Forms of Resistance and Pride

Transcendent Voices: Art and Culture as Forms of Resistance and Pride

Washington D.C., June 28, 2023 – On International LGBTI+ Pride Day, the International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) wishes to dedicate this article to recognize, celebrate, and highlight the presence of LGBTI+ persons in the region in the field of art and culture, which have always been forms of resistance, survival, and pride for LGBTI+ persons. Their disruptive forms of artistic expression have revolutionized this sector, not only enriching it but also challenging and transforming the dominant narratives of cisheteronormativity.

From a human rights perspective, the A/HRC/14/36 report by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Cultural Rights states that cultural rights are essential for the recognition and respect of human dignity in many aspects. Through these rights, the development and expression of diverse worldviews – both individual and collective – are protected, encompassing important freedoms related to issues of identity.[1]

In this sense, the representation and dignified visibility of historically marginalized groups, such as the LGBTI+ population, are crucial to reclaim their bodies and identities and promote their human rights. “Combat stigma and discrimination. Positive representation in culture contributes to challenging the negative stereotypes and prejudices surrounding sexual and gender diversity,” mentions Alex Aguirre, Human Rights Researcher at the Institute for Peace and Development (Ipades) in Nicaragua, who points out that this also applies to oneself when characters and narratives reflect personal experiences that contribute to developing greater confidence and accepting one’s gender identity or sexual orientation without shame or guilt.

“Diverse artistic expression makes things visible, exposes, portrays, and enriches. Being able to enjoy art created by sexual and gender diverse individuals provides a different perspective to the audience, humanizing and making their expressions their own,” says Fhran Medina, lawyer and LGBTI+ rights activist from Fraternidad Trans Masculina Perú.

From the perspective of the meaning of art and culture, Guillermo Valdizán states in his book Creación Heroica that “forms of cultural production are intimately linked to processes of social transformation.”[2] In other words, cultural production does not exist outside of a specific social, political, and economic context and has been present throughout the history of societies; therefore, it is part of the social process and not just a tool. As Sol Ámbar Sánchez Latorre, Advocacy Director at the GAAT Foundation in Colombia, says, there is an appropriation of the more visible cultural sphere by LGBTI+ persons, which produces new representations and reflections on sexuality and gender, fostering cultural transformations.

Next, Race and Equality’s counterparts recommend some notable examples of cultural productions that have contributed to the visibility of LGBTI+ people:

Yunior Pino, Cuban photographer and activist: “We are courageous individuals endowed with talents and gifts; we educate to eradicate the taboos that have caused a lot of harm and discrimination for generations. I recommend the Cuban film titled Fátima because it portrays the harsh reality experienced by the majority of the LGBTI+ community in Cuba, facing a macho and discriminatory society and a system that forces family separation and prostitution.”

Sol Ámbar Sánchez Latorre, Advocacy Director at the GAAT Foundation in Colombia: “I would like the work of Kia sonorica, a Paraguayan trans artist, to be more widely known. She is also an anti-colonial historian and has a deep understanding of art history; and now she is one of the pioneering Latin American artists using artificial intelligence to create artistic works.”

Fhran Medina, Peruvian lawyer and activist: “Antay is my favorite Peruvian singer-songwriter, not only because he is a great singer, but also because of the work and immense heart he puts into each song and performance. His lyrics are filled with tenderness and artistry. As a trans singer-songwriter, he carries many stories and experiences of the trans population. The music video for the song “Júrame” is something that everyone should watch, and you can find more of his productions on Spotify and YouTube.”

Articulación Brasileña de Lésbicas – Rede ABL: “We recommend the work of Bia Ferreira in music because she is a black woman and ‘sapatão’* who brings true ‘gospels’ of liberation in her songs. It is important for other people to know her work because she explains the cause and solutions to various social issues in a didactic way.”

Alex Aguirre, Human Rights Researcher at the Institute for Peace and Development (Ipades) in Nicaragua: “I recommend the artist Ru Paul, an iconic Drag Queen and host of the show RuPaul’s Drag Race. Ru Paul has been an important figure in LGBTI+ culture and has promoted acceptance and celebration of diversity.”

In conclusion, the visibility of LGBTI+ persons in the field of art and culture is a powerful indicator of progress in human rights. Through cinema, music, dance, theater, visual art, and more, a space has been conquered where these transcendent voices can be heard, and their experiences can be authentically represented. Race and Equality reaffirms its commitment to promoting the visibility and representation of LGBTI+ individuals in all areas of life and wishes them a Pride Month filled with music, art, and culture. All people deserve to live in a society free of violence, more just, and without discrimination. Human rights always!

*’Sapatão’ is a word of pride that refers to lesbian women in Brazil. It is similar to how the trans movement has embraced the word ‘travesti’.

 

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[1] Report of the independent expert in the field of cultural rights, Ms. Farida Shaheed, submitted pursuant to resolution 10/23 of the Human Rights Council. Available at https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G10/124/40/PDF/G1012440.pdf?OpenElement

[2] Valdizán, Guillermo (2021). Creación Heroica: Neoliberalismo, políticas culturales y estrategia comunitaria en el Perú del siglo XXI. Lima: RGC Ediciones

Afro-Descendant Activists from Latin America and the Caribbean take over New York and Washington D.C.

Washington D.C., May 31, 2023 – In light of the second session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Afro-Descendants (PFPAD), which will take place from May 30 to June 2 in New York City, organizations representing Afro-descendant women from Brazil, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic have formed a Delegation for Racial Justice to denounce racial and gender violence in Latin America. With the support of the International Institute on Race, Equality, and Human Rights (Race and Equality) and the Black Alliance to End Violence (Fundo Elas), the Delegation for Racial Justice aims to highlight the experiences of Afro-descendant women and the urgent need for international support in building agendas and projects to combat the various forms of racist violence affecting the lives of Latin American women from an intersectional perspective.

Additionally, Race and Equality, together with the Open Society Foundation, is promoting the participation of 15 other organizations, predominantly composed of Afro-descendant women from Latin America and the Caribbean, in the Permanent Forum of Afro-Descendants. With this collaboration, the Delegation for Racial Justice will comprise approximately 30 organizations, united in their call for international cooperation to end racial and gender violence in the Americas. The objective of this delegation is also to prepare a report with recommendations and insights on the first and second sessions of the Permanent Forum, to be presented during the third session scheduled to take place in Brazil in 2023.

The United Nations Permanent Forum on Afro-Descendants was established in 2021 by General Assembly Resolution 75/314, serving as a consultative mechanism to contribute to the fight against racism and the promotion of the rights of the Afro-descendant population. The forum collaborates with the Human Rights Council and other UN mechanisms. The first meeting took place in December 2022 in Geneva, Switzerland, and in addition to the upcoming session in New York, the forum is scheduled to convene in Brazil in December of the same year. The Permanent Forum on Afro-Descendants is part of the implementation activities of the International Decade for People of African Descent and is chaired by Epsy Campbell Barr, the former Vice President of Costa Rica.

Parallel Event: Racial and Gender Violence in Latin America

On Thursday, June 1, at 1:15 p.m. (New York time), the event ‘Racial and Gender Violence in Latin America‘ will be held at the Church Center of the United Nations. The event will call upon political actors present in New York to listen to the realities of Black and LBTI Latin American women. With panels on ‘Women’s Rights and Intersectionality’ and ‘Civil Society’s Vision in the Fight Against Gender Violence in Latin America.’ This space, organized within the framework of the Permanent Forum on Afro-Descendants, aims to facilitate dialogue among Latin American women leaders, discussing the different contexts in which they live, where the brutality of structural racism manifests in terms of discrimination and violence.

Moreover, the urgency to address racial and gender violence is supported by data indicating that Latin America is one of the most violent regions in the global south, with the Black population being disproportionately affected due to the absence of specific policies. Therefore, this delegation aims to contribute to the development of the agenda and declaration of the Permanent Forum with a focus on combating racial and gender violence in Latin America. Furthermore, it seeks to establish appropriate channels for obtaining disaggregated data to better implement and propose public policies tailored to the realities of Afro-descendant individuals, particularly Afro-descendant women.

Political Advocacy Week in Washington D.C.

To strengthen and continue the work carried out during the Permanent Forum on Afro-Descendants, the delegation will travel to Washington D.C. from June 5th-7th. With the support of organizations such as the Washington Brazil Office (WBO) and Black Women Radicals, they will meet with representatives from the Department of State and Afro-North American organizations, including the Black Caucus. They will also hold meetings with missions from the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

Additionally, the Delegation for Racial Justice will strategically work towards the implementation and strengthening of bilateral international treaties among their countries, such as the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination, and Related Forms of Intolerance (CIRDI), the Joint Action Plan for the Elimination of Racial and Ethnic Discrimination and the Promotion of Equality (JAPER), which has recently been reactivated between Brazil and the United States, and the Action Plan between the United States and Colombia for Racial and Ethnic Equality (CAPREE).

“For this delegation, it is crucial that Afro-descendant women directly present their realities and recommendations for positive change because they play a key role in defending their communities. Moreover, the context of racial justice in the Americas is an important point of exchange between Afro-Latin American and Afro-North American organizations,” explains Elvia Duque, Race and Ethnicity Officer at Race and Equality.

To conclude the week of political advocacy, the ‘Black Women’s Movement in Washington D.C.‘ event will take place on June 7, starting at 11 a.m. (Washington D.C. time), at the meeting center for Afro-descendant women, ÌPÀDÉ. The panel discussion on communication and mobilization strategies against racism and racial violence in the Americas will feature the leaders who make up the delegation.

Agenda

 Delegation for Racial Justice of Afro-Descendant Women from Latin America and the Caribbean

United Nations Permanent Forum on Afro-Descendants – May 30th to June 2nd in New York

Parallel Event: Racial and Gender Violence in Latin America

Thursday, June 1, 1:15 p.m. (New York time)

Venue: UN Church Center – 777 United Nations Plaza, New York, NY 10017. 8th floor. Located a two-minute walk from the UN headquarters.

Political Advocacy Week in Washington D.C. – June 5th to June 7th

Event: Black Women’s Movement in Washington D.C.

Wednesday, June 7, 11 a.m. (Washington D.C. time)

Venue: ÌPÀDÉ – 1734 20th St NW, Washington, DC 20009

 

 

Day against LGBTI+phobia: Celebrating advancements and achievements in Human Rights

Washington D.C., May 17, 2023 – Since 2004, every May 17th serves as a reminder that the World Health Organization (WHO) removed homosexuality from its International Classification of Diseases (ICD), a significant step towards the depathologization of LGBTI+ identities. Therefore, on this International Day Against LGBTI+phobia, the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) commemorates the right to live free from violence, with dignity, celebrating who we are, and the achievements made by LGBTI+ persons in favor of human rights.

The struggle for equality and human rights for LGBTI+ persons has achieved significant advancements in many parts of the world, and it is important to recognize the efforts and relentless advocacy behind these achievements. From Race and Equality, we highlight some of the accomplishments from the past year in the region.

In Colombia, the Truth Commission (CEV) incorporated a gender perspective to analyze the disproportionate impact of the armed conflict on the lives of LGBTI+ persons. This serves as an important reference for other Latin American countries that have experienced similar armed conflicts but did not adequately consider the rights of LGBTI+ persons in their peace processes. Such advancements provide a starting point to clarify patterns of violence and subsequently advocate for state recognition, reparation, and accountability measures for perpetrators.

Furthermore, the Constitutional Court ordered the National Registry to include a non-binary category in identification documents. Thanks to the initiative and fight of Dani García, who requested a new document in 2019 with an “indeterminate” sex marker. The Court also instructed the Congress to regulate the rights, services, and obligations to ensure that non-binary individuals can access them. 

In Peru, for the first time, the State apologized to a transgender woman, Azul Rojas, and recognized international responsibility for violating her rights in 2008. This comes after two years of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) ruling on the first case of torture due to discrimination against an LGBTI+ person in the region.

Another historic ruling from the IACHR was the recent achievement in the case of Crissthian Olivera vs. Peru, the first complaint of discrimination based on sexual orientation in the country before this international body. Both judgments by the IACHR held the Peruvian state responsible and ordered comprehensive reparations for the victims, along with a series of measures to promote equality and non-discrimination in the country.

In Brazil, the National Secretariat for LGBTQIA+ Rights was created by the government, and for the first time, a transgender person, Symmy Larrat, assumed the position. Additionally, Benny Briolly became the first transgender person to receive precautionary measures from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). Benny Briolly, a black transgender councilwoman, received these measures due to being in a situation of gravity and urgency, at risk of irreparable harm to her rights based on her gender identity, her work in politics, and as a human rights defender.

In Nicaragua, despite an authoritarian regime and a context of censorship, civil society created and maintains the Observatory of Human Rights Violations against LGBTI+ Persons. These organizations play a fundamental role in promoting equality and visibility for the LGBTI+ community in the country.

In Cuba, the Family Code was approved, legalizing same-sex marriage and the possibility for same-sex couples to adopt.

It is crucial that we continue to promote diversity and respect for gender identity, sexual orientation, gender expression, and sexual characteristics of LGBTI+ persons, and continue celebrating the achievements of civil society in favor of human rights.

To continue contributing to the recognition of LGBTI+ persons and their rights, it is urgent for states to develop measures aimed at:

  • Decriminalizing same sex relationships;
  • Enacting laws that prohibit discrimination;
  • Penalizing hate crimes committed against LGBTI+ persons;
  • Granting recognition to transgender individuals to obtain identification documents without the need to comply with abusive and stigmatizing requirements;
  • Implementing training programs for police officers, personnel in correctional facilities, teachers, social workers, caregivers, and public officials in general, to better serve the LGBTI+ community.

Tragedy Announced: Anti-Democratic Movements Must Be Investigated by the Brazilian State

Brazil, 10th January, 2023 – The action of Bolsonaro protesters that culminated in the dispossession of the Brazilian public and historical patrimony in the federal capital, in a vile attempt of an anti-democratic coup, is marked as a tragedy. The International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) calls on the Brazilian state to prioritize, in its public security plan, the investigation and containment of anti-democratic acts on the rise in the country. As such, we urge accountability and justice of all those involved in acts of vandalism at the headquarters of the three branches of power, as well as the identification of the financiers of this criminal articulation.

Since the establishment of the Democratic State of Law, for the first time, this insurgent act threatens Brazilian democracy at the national and international level. The events of January 8, 2023 are worrying not only because they undermine the popular sovereign will established in the 2022 electoral process, but also for seeking to legitimize hate crimes and escalating violence under the cover of freedom of expression. Thus, we align ourselves with the international repudiation and call for haste and rigid investigations with the observation of due process.

The omission of the military police and the convenience of the army resonate as a warning to those currently in the administrative office that the worst can happen. Therefore, Brazil needs to prioritize, at the national level, the agenda of democratic security to face such situations of sharp polarization especially with the victory of President Lula. The nearly 150 buses that arrived in Brasilia with Bolsonaro protesters were known to the state and the security forces. Thus, the deliberate omission of the invasion of public buildings besides representing an affront to Brazilian democracy, reveals the country’s impunity dressed as a political tonic of forgetfulness and privilege. The caricature of the ‘Capitol Bolsonarista’ is elitist, racist, sexist, and LGBTIphobic.

Thus, Race and Equality as a human rights organization, repudiates the attacks against the three branches of power, and hopes that President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva can reestablish the defense of peace and democracy. It is also essential to foster a policy of confrontation and monitoring of anti-democratic movements that, motivated by the Bolsonaro agenda, will not cease during the next four years of office. Therefore, it is urgent that any possibility of amnesty is out of the question for the Republic of Brazil to move towards equity and social justice.

Permanent Forum on People of African Descent of the UN: Race and Equality and Brazilian CSOs Reaffirm their Commitment to Combat Systemic Racism

Brazil, December 23th, 2022 – Between December 5th and 8th, the first session of the Permanent Forum on People of African Descent took place in Geneva, Switzerland. Created through Resolution 75/314 of the United Nations General Assembly in 2021, the purpose of this consultative mechanism is to contribute to the fight against racism and to promote the rights of the black population, collaborating with the Human Rights Council and other UN mechanisms. The International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) was present at the Forum with Brazilian partner organizations including NGO Criola, Ilê Axé Omiojuaro, Geledés – Institute of Black Women, and the National Association of Travestis and Transsexuals (ANTRA).

The creation of this Forum emerged through the activities implemented by the International Decade of Afro-descendants. The event was attended by Epsy Campbell Bar, President of the Permanent Forum, and former Vice President of Costa Rica; Francia Marquez, Vice President of Colombia; and Federico Villegas, President of the UN Human Rights Council. Dr. Natalia Kanem, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), oversaw the opening table ceremony. The Forum had more than 900 people (virtual and face-to-face), with almost 700 people present during four days of intense debates, including human rights activists, United Nations experts, and civil society of several countries whose work center around racial justice.

The convention was held through thematic panels, meetings, and featured 27 parallel events. Notable themes were identified in the fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and other forms of intolerance, including shared strategies of good practice among civil society. The main debates centered on the fight against systemic racism and police brutality; the inclusion of Afro-descendants in the sustainable development agenda – climate justice; the right to redress; the drafting of the United Nations Declaration on the Right of Afro-descendant Peoples; the need for equity for all, and the need for intersectionality to understand the various forms of racial discrimination, with emphasis on the right of women, young people, the LGBTI+ community, and migrants.

On the last day, the meeting ended with conversations concerning the future of the Permanent Forum. All panels included the participation of civil society leaders with statements on the proposed themes. It should be noted that the Durban Declaration and its Plan of Action were mentioned continuously by all who were present. In addition, approximately 300 people were able to present their contributions to collaborate with the construction of the Forum. The event also featured a cultural activity through the presentation of the group, “Escuelita del Ritmo,” from Panama, and the group Ubufakazi Besoweto from South Africa.

Several Brazilian civil society organizations participated in the debates, including Race and Equality’s CSO partners in Brazil. These partners had the opportunity to condemn racism among cis and trans women, denounce maternal mortality, criticize systemic racism in the justice system, articulate the importance of combating religious racism, and expressed the need of the Forum’s commitment to support trans black women. From Race and Equality, the Executive Director, Carlos Quesada, and Race and Gender Officer in Brazil, Leilane Reis, were present. In her statement, Leilane Reis highlighted the importance of the interaction of the future United Nations Declaration with the Inter-American Convention against Racism, emphasizing that the present States that have committed themselves to ratify and implement the document must fulfill this promise in pursuit of the effective fight against racism.

To close the four intense days of dialogue and work, following the listening process, Rapporteur Michael Eachrane made a few preliminary remarks to the Forum’s Work Plan for the next three years, and expressed the need to extend the Decade of Afro-descendants to 2034. The next meeting will take place in May 2023 in New York. Race and Equality celebrates the implementation of the Permanent Forum on People of African Descent, and intends to contribute to all opportunities of collective construction by encouraging the participation of civil society and Afro-descendant activists in the fight for human rights.

Editorial – Brazil: Blackening the political agenda with gender perspectives in the 2022 elections

Brazil, October 06th, 2022 – On October 2, Brazilians were heading to the polls to define the political scene for the next four-years in Brazil. These elections have sparked several episodes of political violence. In recent weeks, it has become clear that this violence is not only directed towards candidates, but also to voters, especially when they defend agendas considered progressive and linked to human rights. The International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality), as a non-partisan organization, expresses deep concern around the challenges of a guaranteed Brazilian democracy, freedom of expression, and political participation during the election period.

Recent cases reveal the extreme brutality and attempts at silencing. For instance, on September 26, in Cascavel, Ceará, a man was stabbed to death after being asked about his vote and declaring that he would vote for former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Councilman and candidate for federal deputy, Renato Freitas, even had his mandate revoked by the Chamber of Curitiba, which was reinstated after the decision of the Federal Supreme Court that recognized the presence of structural racism in the act. Both situations point out that conservative practices are strategically implemented through the promotion of hate speech and the persecution of any opponent of their government, creating greater democratic disparity.

Fear has become an anti-human rights political tool, and as it has been denounced by Brazilian social movements, political violence is exacerbated when it permeates through the black and LGBTI+ population. Black, transvestite, and transgender women are systemically impacted through political violence as a way of making their political participation unfeasible, through use of offenses, threats, public humiliation, and intimidation.

We know that poverty in Brazil involves class, race, and gender and that this part of the population is still underrepresented in the spheres of power, whether in Congress, political parties, or state and municipal governments. Considering the importance of centering the racial agenda in the electoral debate and also in the government’s public policies, through this editorial we highlight the following: in a country whose population is mostly black (56%), with an unpayable historical debt between Afro-descendants and indigenous peoples [1], the political agenda needs to be darkened: the intersectional racial debate needs to be effectively incorporated in order to build political accountability for social inequality.

Debate around blackening the political agenda also means discussing the support and strengthening of black candidates committed to the racial agenda. TSE data show that, of the 28,966 candidacies registered in the court, 14,497 are from black people. However, a few days before the elections, most political parties had not reached the minimum percentages of transfers from the electoral fund to black candidates, who had received only 36% of the fund’s resources. It should also be noted that, on one hand, in the few electoral debates of presidential candidates, the racial agenda was not addressed, moreover among most Brazilian states, the candidates with real possibilities of winning the presidential and congressional elections are white and cis-heterosexual men.

Therefore, we highlight some political reflections that we consider urgent and necessary to break with the paradigms of violence proposed by the current discriminatory, racist, sexist and LGBTIphobic structure. Furthermore, this is a call to the political class and the social movement to, without fail, demand that any construction of public policies include the intersectional racial perspective of 2022-2026.

Black women: Racialization of the Maria da Penha Law and political plan for care economy

The most recent data show that in Brazil, between 2009 and 2019, the number of homicides against black women increased by 2%, while the number of homicides against non-black women fell by 26.9% in the same period. Thus, even after the implementation of the Maria da Penha Law, rates of violence continue to disproportionately affect black women. For these reasons, the black women’s movement claims the need to racialize the legislation for the construction of public policies that contemplate their safety.

The insertion of a social justice plan aimed at black women presents a reparatory path within a culture of hatred and violence against women. The current patriarchal structure needs to recognize the precarious living conditions and food insecurity in which most black women live in. We must not forget that a woman (black domestic worker) was the first death victim of COVID-19 in Brazil.

Racialization of the public security debate and federal accountability in the face of police lethality

As long as the racial agenda is not incorporated into the culture and militarized structure of public security in Brazil, the criminalization of the black population will continue to deepen in the country. It is essential that criminal justice practices seek new ways to combat violence and reduce mass black incarceration. In Brazil, the state does not take responsibility for the fundamental rights of its population and encourages violence through massacres and the reproduction of militias.

The number of licenses to carry weapons, expanded during the Bolsonaro government, and grew 325% in three years. In this way, we focus on the creation of collective strategies that seek a new public security policy to mitigate racist police violence, and encourage the collection, systematization, and referral of violations by state agents, especially in the favelas and peripheries of the state country.

Cartography of violence against LGBTI+ bodies in Brazil

It is important to remember that the LGBTI+ political agenda is not disconnected from the racial agenda, on the contrary, the violence data reflect that black trans women are the biggest victims of cruel murder in the country. Therefore, we focus on the transversality of public policies that can contemplate the LGBTI+ population in its particularities. It is necessary that data collection be a governmental responsibility and that a collective agenda be put into practice that starts from a sociocultural and educational reorganization, in which LGBTIphobic practices are in fact held accountable and do not remain unpunished. It is necessary to remove Brazil from the regrettable record of being the country that kills the most LGBTI+ people in the world and, for that, a governmental commitment to the rights of this population is necessary.

Religious racism: Implementation of a strategic plan to contain violence against African-based religions

In a secular state, the discourse that uses religion to legitimize and promote violence, as well as express prejudice, needs to be fought against. We express strong concern especially in a scenario of advancing neo-Pentecostal fundamentalism. Religion should not reverberate a culture of hatred and intolerance against other religions. In Brazil, we know that this hatred is directed especially towards practitioners of religions of African origin, and in recent years there has been an aggravation of what many terreiros and organizations have called religious racism. Thus, we urge the defense of the rights of African-based religions and traditional peoples of the country.

Indigenous peoples: representation and defense of Amazonian territories

We emphasize that the claims for the racialization of public policies contemplate, in their entirety, the ethnic-racial demands of the Brazilian population. Therefore, the native peoples and quilombolas need the new government to meet their specificities and protect their territories. Environmental racism occurs from the devastation of the Amazon Forest and indigenous and quilombola territories. This includes the disruption of sanitary and housing conditions of peripheral communities that live on slopes and riversides. Indigenous underrepresentation, whether in parliaments or in any other decision and power space, is leading to yet another decimation of many peoples, and exploitatively benefits agribusiness and mining companies.

The indigenous call for the end of the time frame is just one of the survival strategies in which they continue to denounce the massacre of their communities by miners. The increasing destruction of the Amazon rainforest continues to be denounced by activists and human rights defenders– a fact that has led Brazil to enter the UN’s “dirty list” as a dangerous country for these leaders. Thus, we insist that this governmental intimidation imposed on civil society with the closure of civic spaces cease, and we continue to demand that the next government reactivate committees and councils that value the preservation of human rights.

Implementation of international agreements that value the fight against structural racism

Since May 2021, Brazil has ratified the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Forms of Intolerance (CIRDI) and, as a next step, the government must implement the Convention. With the status of constitutional amendment, the CIRDI also deals with economic and social rights, representing a legal instrument that allows a new horizon for projects of historical reparation and representation.

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Over the last few years, Race and Equality has been working in Brazil to strengthen civil society organizations in the fight against racial discrimination and gender inequalities, fostered by current exclusionary policies and the growth of hate speech. Since then, as a human rights organization, we have continued to denounce human rights violations in the country. Difficult challenges continue to arise as civil society encourages the government to incorporate the intersectional racial debate.

Race and Equality will continue to monitor the Brazilian State and bring to light, at the international level, patterns of violations that are repeated at the expense of vulnerable populations. We are all responsible. There is no possible neutrality in a society who is the agency for change. Voting, in its democratic process, is the exercise of the right to change, and at this moment, an exit door for hate speech.

 

[1] Black, quilombola and indigenous population

Afro Latines Advocacy Week: Race and Equality brings organizations from Brazil and Colombia to Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C., September 27th 2022 – From the 27th to the 30th of September, the International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) brings human rights organizations from Brazil and Colombia to Washington, D.C., working to promote and defend the rights of the Black and LGBTI+ population.  In order to promote an exchange of political advocacy strategies between the Afro-Latine and the Afro-American movements, the meetings will take place within the framework of Black Caucus Week; an annual conference of Black U.S. Congress that aims to boost and debate the civic engagement of the Black population. In addition, the delegation participates in academic meetings with U.S. civil society organizations and private meetings with congress members and state departments.

The Brazil-Colombia delegation present in Washington D.C is formed by the organizations: Geledés – Instituto da Mulher Negra (BR) that will be represented by Rodnei Jericó da Silva, Coordinator of SOS Racismo;  NGO Criola (BR) with the presence of the Project Coordinator, Lia Manso;  Somos Identidad (COL), with the Founder Johana Sinisterra and the Legal Representative Sandra Milena Ibarbo;  and the Asociación Nacional de Afrocolombianos Desplazados (AFRODES – COL), with the presence of Coordinator Luz Marina Becerra.  Representing Race and Equality, the Executive Director Carlos Quesada; Zuleika Rivera, Senior Officer of the LGBTI Program and Brazil Program Officer, Nathaly Calixto, will be present at these meetings.

In this exchange among Black Pan-American organizations, the Latin American organizations aim to take the Black and LGBTI+ perspectives of the global southern diaspora for an effective political impact, as well as exchanges of good practices so that they can move together to achieve plural racial justice. It’s important to emphasize that, for Race and Equality, these meetings are an opportunity to promote strategies of structural political changes with an intersectional bias; as Brazil is in the electoral period, Colombia’s President values racial agendas and, this year, the U.S. Congress goes through midterms elections.

“It’s precisely in this configuration that we empower organizations to act with political implications. Being able to talk to Black U.S. Congress members about the Latin American racial agenda is one way to influence the Biden administration, because it needs a congressional majority to pass its agendas.  It is in this sense that we plan to ensure and strengthen international human rights agreements on racial and gender justice and, in this case, there’s nothing better than organizations to guide the demands of their countries,” says Carlos Quesada.

Brazil and Colombia: In Search of Racial Justice

As the U.S. academic community seeks to understand and foster studies on the Black diaspora, the BRA-COL delegation will meet with academics and students at Howard University to share the efforts of regional civil society organizations in defending human rights. The idea is to show that even though racism is a global issue, the different sociocultural dynamics and the deficit economic contexts produced by centuries of colonialism, impact primarily on the most vulnerable populations in Latin America and Afro-Caribbean. In this case, to make known the racial and gender equity agenda of these organizations, can stimulate studies that provide, in  the future, the construction of equitable global public policies.

Brazil, for example, has the highest murder rate of LGBTI+ people in the world, and this incidence rate cross-referenced from an intersectional perspective is highest in trans-Black women in vulnerable situations. The organizations Geledés and Criola, together with Race and Equality in Brazil, conducted a survey monitoring the closure of civic spaces, in which they mapped that the rise of an ultraconservative agenda has generated attacks on the Brazilian democratic system, criminalization of human rights defenders and the immobilization of citizen participation councils and associations. With this, there are growing attacks and hate speech against Black women and elected LBTIs who intend to participate in the political life of the country.

In Colombia, for years the Afro-Colombian community has suffered a process of marginalization and vulnerabilization, and the civil society and Afro-Colombian leaders have denounced the existence of a geographical apartheid reinforced by structural and institutional racism.  This same structure resonates in erasing the struggle for the existence of ethnic peoples, which reinforce that civil rights in the country must be thought of in multiethnic and multicultural perspectives, taking into account how racist violence impacts these territories and racialized bodies. Similarly, for Colombian LGBTI+ people, the scene of gender and racial violence continues to increase: from January to June 2022,  354 victims of  sexual orientation assaults were recorded, 324 of whom suffered some physical abuse and  229 suffered these abuses within their own families.

The excessive use of police force in both Brazil and Colombia is a complaint presented to international human rights mechanisms.  The armed conflict in Colombia and police forces in Brazil intersect in the profile of their victims: Black people in vulnerable living conditions in territories whose presence of the state is marked by police violence. In Colombia, at least 1,144,486 people who identified themselves as part of the Black population were recorded as victims of armed conflict, according to data from the National Information Network, which corresponds to 38.38% of the total. In Brazil, the Brazilian Public Safety Yearbook points out that of the total of 6,145 deaths by police intervention, in 2021, 84.1% were Black and 15.8% were white.

Why the Black population is seen as a threat

In addition to this question and many others that permeate the racist structure that found the police corporations of Latin America, Race and Equality in partnership with organizations in Brazil and Colombia, continue in a regional project to confront and denounce racist police violence in both countries.  In the face of this meeting in Washington, D.C., police violence that intersects with the Black and LGBTI+ populations will also be the subject of meetings to placate this colonial modus operandi, in which Black bodies are exempt from the presumption of innocence and, because they exist, are victims of all violence and seen as a threat, whether in Latin American countries or Anglo America.

In view of this, racism, gender-based violence and LGBTIphobia pose the real threat to a system of oppression that disrespects inalienable human rights and international treaties that value their guarantees. For this, Race and Equality with the BRA-COL delegation intend to denounce to the American Congress members the current milestones of violation of the rights of the Black population and LGBTI+ Latin America. The exchange of these dissenting voices reaffirms the purpose of further denouncing racism and its different forms of violence that prevent the full exercise of citizenship, freedom of expression and the right to development of these countries as a call for partnership and inclusion of the Black population of all the Americas.

Brazilian delegation participates in the pre-sessions of the UN-UPR in Switzerland with recommendations on racial discrimination in Brazil

Brazil, September 15th, 2022 – With Brazil’s review approaching in the 4th Cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), The International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) promoted a series of meetings, in July and August, along with civil society organizations that work on issues of race, gender and sexual orientation in Brazil, including Embassies in Brasília and their respective Permanent Missions, in Geneva, Switzerland. The Universal Periodic Review is a mechanism developed by the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council to assess the human rights situation in each of the UN member countries.

The meetings in Geneva took place between August 29 and September 2, and the following organizations participated: Grupo Conexão G de Cidadania LGBT de Favelas (RJ), represented by the current Director General Gilmara Cunha, a trans woman, community leader, and activist of human rights; NGO Criola (RJ), with the presence of Mônica Sacramento, the Institution’s Project Coordinator; Marielle Franco Institute (RJ) with its Executive Director Anielle Franco; Geledés – Instituto da Mulher Negra, represented by Nilza Iraci, Coordinator of Political Incidence. On behalf of Race and Equality, the Executive Director, Carlos Quesada; David Veloso, Human Rights Consortium Coordinator; Gaia Hefti, Advocacy Officer in Geneva; and Leilane Reis, Race and Gender Officer of Brazil all took part in the meetings.

Due to the importance of demonstrating at the regional and international level the current framework of human rights violations in the country, in addition to seeking to raise awareness around the need for more targeted recommendations for the black population, LGBTI+, and indigenous peoples, this delegation has actively participated in human rights mechanisms by sending reports. The agenda in Geneva represented a continuity of the work of political incidence in Brasilia. There were five days of meetings focusing on the visibility of the current situation of racial discrimination in Brazil, leading to the Permanent Missions, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and Independent Experts’ specific recommendations on the subject.

Geneva Agenda

On August 30, several Brazilian organizations were selected by the UN Human Rights Council to speak on the situation in the country during the pre-session of the UPR, and propose the recommendations to the Brazilian State, who was also present at the event, with its Permanent Mission. It should be noted that the Report of the Brazilian State for the evaluation of the IV cycle of the UPR was only published on the eve of the pre-session of the UPR, leaving civil society in the dark regarding what information was published. Representing the Brazilian delegation, Anielle Franco was invited by the organizer of the pre-sessions, the NGO UPR Info, to speak on the intersections of police brutality and racism in Brazil. The activist brought to light the recent massacres in Rio de Janeiro and the murder of the young black, pregnant woman, Kathlen Romeo.

“These are cases that indicate that the death of the black population in Brazil is a systemic issue, promoted by the Brazilian authorities and covered up by the police forces. Instead of investigating the massacres and discriminatory violence against the Afro-Brazilian population, the Brazilian government and police try to legitimize these police operations and attack Brazilian human rights organizations, such as the Marielle Franco Institute.”

On August 31, the International Day of People of African Descent, Race and Equality held a hybrid event entitled, “Racial Discrimination in Brazil: Violence against the Black Population and Indigenous Peoples.” The event was attended by the delegation present in Geneva and aimed to make the recommendations made by these organizations for the 4th cycle of the UPR visible to the general public, expanding beyond closed meetings with Embassies and Permanent Missions. In addition, the event was also an important tool of international political advocacy for the construction of networks and partnerships between Brazilian and international organizations.

The Brazilian delegation had the opportunity to take the recommendations to the Ambassador of Chile in Geneva, Claudia Fuentes Julio. They also met with the Embassies of Canada, Australia and Argentina, the Permanent Mission of Costa Rica, France, Germany and Colombia, and with Gay McDougall, Rapporteur of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), which is responsible for monitoring the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Faced with the current picture of violations presented, a review that will take place in November this year, charging the Brazilian State for covering up the racial issues in the country.

It is important to highlight that the delegation provided ample space for listening and dialogue in meetings with experts from UN treaty bodies, experts on afro-descendant peoples, and experts from the mechanism on police violence created by the UN in 2021. In addition, the Brazilian delegation was received by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) who is charging the Brazilian State for neglecting the well-being of the black, indigenous, and LGBTI+ populations.

International Incidence: The Paths to Geneva

The task of illuminating the ongoing human rights violations in the country for international mechanisms and their support is a major commitment for Race and Equality with civil society organizations in Brazil. For this, technical training work and support to these institutions are necessary so that their complaints and demands arrive instrumentalized to the Experts and Rapporteurs of each international body; this work is called advocacy and/ or political incidence. During the Race and Equality event in Geneva, the Executive Director, Carlos Quesada, stressed the importance of the daily construction of advocacy strategies in Brazil, “to train grassroots organizations to promote political actors through a technical training methodology so that these organizations can generate sustainable structural changes.”

Thus, in order for the Brazilian delegation to be received with its recommendations in Geneva, it was necessary to hold a meeting in Brasilia, with the Embassies of the countries that will review Brazil in the 4th cycle of the UPR, and the other Embassies present at the UPR Human Rights Council. The meetings in Brasilia took place from July 27 to July 29, and were attended by: Gilmara Cunha, General Director of the Grupo Conexão G de Cidadania LGBT de Favelas (RJ); Marina Fonseca, Anthropologist and Political Advisor at the NGO Criola (RJ); Fabiana Pinto, Sanitarian and Coordinator of Incidence and Research at the Marielle Franco Institute (RJ); and Rodnei Jericó, lawyer and Coordinator of SOS Racism of Geledés (SP). Representing Race and Equality were present: Leilane Reis, Officer of the Race and Gender Program and, Adriana Avelar, Incidence Officer in Brazil.

The meetings in Brasilia were with the Permanent Missions that evaluated Brazil in previous periods in themes of interest to the group that are connected with the current and fragile Brazilian democratic system: European Union, United States, Norway, Canada, Germany, France, Switzerland, Australia, Argentina, UK, Colombia and Chile.

The organizations sought to make visible the current regulatory frameworks that have exacerbated the vulnerability of black, indigenous and LGBTI+ populations in Brazil since the last review of the UPR, taking into account the precariousness of life due to the effects of the pandemic. Based on the recommendations made by the Embassies visited, the following themes were discussed: violence against the LGBTI+ population, police violence against the black population, black women’s health, closure of civic spaces, and indigenous peoples’ rights. The intention was to establish a dialogue with recommendations for the next cycle, to point out the social markers in force in Brazilian society and to be able to highlight the real situation of human rights violation in Brazil.

The work of political incidence is actively built-in partnership with Brazilian organizations, it’s necessary to be connected with the political and legislative proposals of the Brazilian Government so that effective action can be taken to ensure the construction and implementation of international treaties and agreements. The purpose of the route from Brasilia to the pre-sessions of the UPR in Geneva is to welcome the recommendations of the Brazilian delegation during the review of Brazil at the UPR session, which will take place on November 14, at 2:30 pm (Geneva time), and at 9:30 am (Brasília time).

What are the next steps?

The UPR is a UN mechanism in which State Parties evaluate State Parties. Therefore, UPR, along with civil society can impactfully highlight the human rights violations in Brazil and influence the evaluating states to accept its recommendations in the assessment process. As mentioned earlier, Brazil also delivered its report, in which it said it had consulted civil society on the human rights situation in the country. With this, an analysis based on advances, setbacks, and good practices is performed from all information received and, finally, the evaluated State must apply the recommendations of its peers.

If the recommendations of the Brazilian delegation are accepted and promoted by the State Parties during the UPR, the next task is to present them to the new Government that will take office in 2023, so that it becomes aware of the work of political incidence of civil society organizations. From there, the recommendations should be ratified and implemented in Brazil’s four-year public policies. Thus, civil society carries the responsibility to monitor compliance with the agenda in combating racial discrimination granted in the UN Universal Periodic Review. Race and Equality follows alongside these organizations to monitor and pressure the government in applying the international agreement.

Finally, to collaborate with the United Nations Universal Periodic Review mechanism, Brazilian organizations supported by Race and Equality propose, among others, the following recommendations addressed to the Brazilian State:

I) Ensure the occurrence of investigations into crimes committed against LGBTI persons in favela territory, enabling the collection of public data on such crimes.

II) Take urgent measures to curb and eradicate police violence at any stage of action by civil police, military, and armed forces in carrying out missions on Brazilian soil.

III) Recreate participatory councils and collegiate groups that allow participation and indigenous social control in the formulation, monitoring, implementation, and evaluation of indigenous policies of the Brazilian State in the areas of territorial management, education, health and culture, alongside the establishment of programs and measures to prevent and punish racism, discrimination, and violence against indigenous peoples, and to promote ethnic and racial equality, autonomy, and the right of peoples to be different.

IV) Conduct the implementation of the National Plan for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and institutionalizing the Protection Program for Human Rights Defenders, Communicators and Environmentalists (PPDDH) by expanding its structure in the 26 states of the country and DF, establishing budgets, regulations and specific strategies for the reception and follow-up of cases of black, trans, and transvestite women human rights defenders, representatives of traditional peoples and communities; create indicators for monitoring and judicial mechanisms for the accountability of their main violators, highlighting the use of police brutality and militarized groups employed to suppress rights and freedoms of expression, association, belief, assembly, and political participation in Brazilian civic space.

V) Ensure access to reproductive health services, including ensuring that abortions are carried out under the conditions provided for in current legislation, without bureaucratic obstacles or embarrassment to people who are pregnant and seek care, giving special attention to the situation of black pregnant and parturient women who suffer from the impact of institutional racism on maternal health.

International Day for People of African Descent: What Are We Doing to Promote and Defend their Rights?

Washington D.C., August 31, 2022.  This August 31, the International Day for People of African Descent celebrates its second year, promoting respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms of people of African descent. In the Americas, there are 134 million people of African descent, according to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). This population continues to face human rights challenges and is victim to different manifestations of discrimination and violence.

For this reason, as the International Day for People of African Descent is commemorated once again, the International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) encourages States to assume and implement actions for the promotion and protection of this vulnerable population, using the frameworks of the International Decade for People of African Descent, and other existing mechanisms within the Inter-American System and the United Nations.

About August 31 and Other International Mechanisms

On December 16, 2020, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 75/170 proclaiming August 31 as the International Day for People of African Descent. “To promote greater recognition and respect for the diversity of the legacy, culture, and contribution of people of African descent to the development of societies, as well as to promote respect for the human rights and fundamental freedoms of people of African descent,” reads the Resolution.

The plan of activities for the International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024) has been the driving force behind this type of action. One of its main objectives is to adopt and strengthen national legal frameworks in accordance with the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, ensuring their full and effective implementation.

Additionally, the record of acts of discrimination and violence against people of African descent—such as the murder of the African-American citizen George Floyd in May 2020 in the United States—has impacted the vigilance and adoption of international mechanisms for the human rights of Afro-descendant populations and racial justice.

For example, a month after Floyd’s death, the UN Human Rights Council adopted Resolution 43/1, “Promotion and protection of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of Africans and people of African descent from excessive use of force and other human rights violations by law enforcement officials,” which calls for widespread attention to racism and implores States to take an active role in meeting their objective of racial justice.

In 2021, the United Nations adopted two important mechanisms. One of them is the Permanent Forum of Afro-descendants, which was approved in August through Resolution 75/314 of the United Nations General Assembly, with the mission of being an advisory body of the Human Rights Council. Among its mandates is that of, “contributing to the full political, economic, and social inclusion of Afro-descendants in the societies in which they live, with an equal footing to other citizens and without discrimination of any kind and contribute to ensuring the equal enjoyment of all human rights.”

Moreover, in a resolution adopted on July 13, 2021, the Human Rights Council decided to establish an international mechanism of independent experts, composed of three experts with experience in law enforcement and human rights, and appointed by the chairman. Its mandate is to examine systemic racism and the excessive use of force and other violations of international human rights law against Africans and people of African descent by law enforcement officials around the world.

What are we doing?

To contribute to living in a more just and equitable society, Race and Equality works with partner organizations in Latin America and the Caribbean in the defense and protection of the rights of people of African descent and Afro-LGBTI+ populations, using capacity building to promote visibility, documentation, and strategic litigation before the Inter-American System and the United Nations.

In July, in Brazil, Race and Equality organized a visit by Margarette May Macaulay, the Rapporteur for People of African Descent of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). The Commissioner had the opportunity to hear complaints from the black population, especially those related to police brutality and religious racism. In addition, in May Race and Equality launched the ‘Kátia Tapety Political Training School’ for Afro-BLTI women, with the aim of strengthening civil participation in collective decision-making spaces, with particular emphasis placed on reducing gender and race gaps in political participation at the regional, national, and global level.

Additionally in Brazil, Race and Equality has been working on projects that denounce the closure of civic spaces for black and indigenous movements; the fight against religious racism; the protection and defense of the Afro-LGBTI+ populations; the political strengthening of black, indigenous LBTI women; and the fight against police violence. It also monitors the implementation of the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Forms of Intolerance (CIRDI), which was ratified at the end of 2021 in Brazil.

In Colombia, Race and Equality carried out, in conjunction with organizations in Cali, documentation activities and the preparation of a report on the effects and differential impacts of violence against people of African descent in Cali within the framework of the 2021 National Strike. In the coming days, together with the organizations Ilex-Acción Jurídica, Temblores NGOs, and the Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement (CODHES), Race and Equality will publish a national report on police brutality and racial bias.

In relation to advocacy processes before the United Nations on the disproportionate use of force against people of African descent, Race and Equality recently presented a report for the Mechanism of Experts to Promote Justice and Racial Equality in Law Enforcement. It also submitted a report on inputs for the preparation of the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 47/21- this in coalition with Ilex-Acción Jurídica, CODHES, Black Communities Process (PCN), and the Center for Afrodiasporic Studies (CEAF) of the ICESI University of Cali.

In Mexico, within the framework of the International Day of Afro-Latin, Afro-Caribbean and Diaspora Women, Race and Equality launched on July 25 the project, “Promotion of an anti-racist agenda to strengthen the work of civil society organizations in the fight against racism and racial discrimination in Mexico,” which is being implemented thanks to the support of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

One of the first activities of this project consisted of a cycle of conferences given between August 25 and 26 by Dr. Pastor Murillo, a member of the UN Permanent Forum on People of African Descent. The conferences, which were held both in Mexico City and in Mérida, Yucatán State, revolved around international tools to combat racism and racial discrimination, and the role of universities.

At the regional level, Race and Equality maintains the CIRDI 2024 campaign, “towards a region free of racial discrimination,” for the promotion of the signature, ratification, and implementation of the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Intolerance (CIRDI). Within the framework of this campaign, Race and Equality has considered working hand in hand with local organizations to strengthen their monitoring capacities in countries where this Convention has been ratified, as well as advocate in other countries where it has only been signed.

Race and Equality continues to make racial discrimination visible utilizing an intersectional perspective, through the Inter-American Forum against Discrimination, an event held each year with the participation of international experts and activists from the region. Its main objectives are to promote the effective participation of non-governmental organizations in the framework of the OAS General Assemblies and Summits of the Americas, to improve their impact within the system, and to make visible both the different discriminations faced in the Americas and the main demands of the different sectors of the population that are victims of discrimination, especially Afro-descendants and LGBTI population.

For Race and Equality, it is important to emphasize the promotion and protection tools offered by international mechanisms, such as CIRDI, for the benefit of people of African descent. We firmly believe that it is through these instruments States can adopt and implement clear and effective policies to guarantee the human rights and social welfare of people of African descent. To this end, it is essential to work with civil society organizations that protect the rights of this population, since they guarantee the visibility of their realities, and follow up on national and international commitments.

On August 31, Race and Equality reaffirms its commitment to defend and protect the rights of people of African descent in the Americas and calls on States to adopt measures and strengthen those already in place, based on the recognition of the historical inequalities that this ethnic group has faced. Two years before the end of the International Decade for People of African Descent, this task is not only urgent, but represents a true commitment to democracy and social inclusion.

Complexo da Penha Massacre: Human Rights organizations appeal to the IACHR to end police violence

Brazil, May 27th, 2022 – The International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality), Marielle Franco Institute, Geledés – Black Women’s Institute, Observatório de Favelas, Justiça Global and Casa Fluminense denounce to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the Complexo da Penha Massacre, which took place this Tuesday, May 24, during a police mega-operation in Rio de Janeiro. The communiqué sent to the IACHR calls for the protection of community residents to be guaranteed and for the extensive monitoring of reported situations of violence. So far, there are registered: 25 dead and 07 injured in the Complexo da Penha Massacre.

  • 25 people killed were taken to the Getúlio Vargas Hospital.
  • 01 body of a woman was taken directly to the Legal Medical Institute (IML)
  • 01 person killed was taken to the Emergency Care Unit of Complexo do Alemão with 08 gunshot wounds
  • 07 injured were taken to Hospital Getúlio Vargas

This extreme violence reflects the result of the public security policy of the current Governor of the State of Rio de Janeiro, Claudio Castro, who, since his predecessor, Wilson Witzel, does not respect the decision of the Federal Supreme Court (STF) that determined the State must comply with the ADPF 635, known as ADPF das Favelas. Until now, the State Government has not presented any plan to reduce police lethality; it didn’t install GPS equipment, audio and video recording systems in police vehicles or on the uniforms of officers; and as a result of these current massacres, it has set no limits on lethal force. As a result, black bodies, from favelas and outskirts, experience constant scenes of terror and even their homes become a place of fear and insecurity for all families.

According to reports, agents from the Special Operations Battalion (BOPE) and from the Federal Highway Police (PRF) entered the Vila Cruzeiro Complex at 4:00 am, firing shots with helicopters and armored tanks as support. The operation took place throughout the day and, despite the active movement of civil society organizations urging the public authorities for a ceasefire, the operation continued on its terroristic course. In this regard, the signatory organizations urge the IACHR and other international human rights organizations to constantly monitor police violence in Brazil.

It is unacceptable to continue the current security policy that goes against the basic principles of human rights, such as the right of living and housing, in addition to State protection. It must be mentioned: this massacre is yet another demonstration of the structural racism present in the actions of the Brazilian police.

We regret the lives lost and sympathize with the various families of Complexo da Penha, who once more experienced the presence of the State in their territories with violence, deaths, scarcity and tears. In light of the foregoing, we share the requests to the IACHR:

  1. To publicly comment on this case, through a statement and monitor the situations of violence reported in this document;
  2. Request the Civil Police of the State of Rio de Janeiro to carry out technical investigations on the spot, with the elaboration of reports on ballistics and possible signs of torture on the bodies, ensuring the duty of publicity of the state’s action;
  3. Demand that the State (RJ) and Federal Public Ministry investigate the police operation responsible for this massacre, including the specific need to observe possible signs of alteration of the crime scenes, as well as the impediment of residents and activists to manifest about what happened;
  4. That the State (RJ) and Federal Public Ministry provide information to the families of the victims of the massacre and keep them informed about the investigations;
  5. Considering what was determined in ADPF 635 regarding the absolute exceptionality in carrying out police operations, that is, the premise that such incursions should only occur in extraordinary situations of immediate and concrete danger to life, which cannot consist of a generic allegation about the current calamitous situation of public security in the State of Rio de Janeiro and/or on the need to repress drug trafficking and criminality, allegations that underlie the human rights violations implicit to public security policy in Brazil. It is requested that the state of Rio de Janeiro be notified of non-compliance with the criteria determined in ADPF 635;
  6. Maintain direct communication with the Brazilian government inquiring about the measures adopted to combat police violence, considering the numerous cases publicized by the Brazilian press and by the aforementioned civil society organizations.

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