CIDHHeaderEn.GIF (11752 bytes)





          In this chapter, the Commission is continuing its practice of following up on its reports on the human rights situation in member States.  This practice is based on the functions of the IACHR, the primary OAS agency for the protection and promotion of human rights, as stipulated in Articles 41(c) and (d) of the American Convention, and in accordance with Articles 18(c) and (d) of the Statute and 63(h) of the Regulations of the Commission. 

          The initiative to evaluate compliance with the recommendations made in these reports in a separate chapter of the IACHR’s Annual Report was first implemented in 1998, with the inclusion of a chapter entitled “Follow-up Report on Compliance by the Republic of Ecuador with the recommendations offered by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in its 1997 Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Ecuador.” 

          The reports in this chapter are included for the purpose of assessing the measures adopted to comply with the recommendations formulated by the IACHR in its reports on the human rights situation in Brazil (1997), Mexico (1998), and Colombia (1999).  To this end, the three states in question were asked to provide all the relevant information pertaining to the above-mentioned provisions.  In addition to the official information received by the Commission or publicly available, it also used documents and reports from universal organizations for the protection of human rights, and from organizations of civil society and the media. 



 1.                  In its “Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Brazil,”[1] published in December 1997, the Commission made a series of recommendations that addressed social and economic rights; the judicial system; police violence and impunity; prison conditions; the rights of the child, indigenous people and rural workers; the status of women; and racial discrimination. Generally speaking the recommendations of the Commission all reaffirmed the objectives and strategies of the National Human Rights Program (PNDH) adopted in 1996 after a broad consultation process. 

2.                  In following up on those recommendations, the Commission requested the Government on October 19, 1999, to furnish it with information on compliance therewith, in order to have the benefit of its perspective on the subject.  By note of February 11, 2000, in reply to the above note, the Government, by way of information, sent the First National Report on Human Rights (hereinafter the “First National Report”) prepared by the Center for Studies on Violence of the University of São Paulo at the request of the State Secretariat for Human Rights of the Ministry of Justice of Brazil. The Commission is appreciative that the response of the Government of Brazil to the above request is a nationwide study carried out by an impartial entity of recognized repute.  In producing this follow-up report the Commission has also used other sources, including official government documents and material from human rights organizations.[2] 

3.                  During its 106º period of sessions the IACHR issued its “Draft Follow-up Report” and on March 10, 2000 it transmitted a copy to the State with a 30 day period to present its observations.  The IACHR did not receive any comment from the Government of Brazil and approved this version to be published on April 13, 2000. 


4.                  First of all the Commission wishes to highlight the fact that the State of Brazil deposited on December 10, 1998, in accordance with Article 62 of the American Convention on Human Rights, its instrument of recognition of the compulsory contentious jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on all matters relating to the interpretation or application of the Convention for events that occur as from that date. That instrument was deposited following approval by the National Congress of the request submitted by the Executive Branch through Legislative Decree Nº 89 of December 3, 1998. Aside from this adherence to the competence of the Inter-American Court, Brazil also ratified a large number of international instruments for protection of human rights, and supported the installation of a permanent, effective, competent, and autonomous International Criminal Court. 

5.                  As the First National Report mentions, Brazil also adopted laws that broaden the mechanisms for defense of human rights. That Report names, in particular, the following national laws: 

-                     Law 9.140/95, which recognizes as deceased, persons who disappeared as a result of participation, or of being charged with participation, in political activities during the period from September 2, 1961 to August 15, 1979 (military regime); 

-                     Law 9.299/96, which transfers from the military justice system to the common justice system jurisdiction over intentional crimes against life committed by the “military” police; 

-                     Law 9.437/97, which makes it a crime to carry weapons illegally and creates the National Weapons System (SINARM);

-                     Law 9.459/, which categorizes the crimes of discrimination based on ethnic group, religion or national origin; 

-                     Law 9.474/97 which establishes the Refugees Statute;

 -                     Law 9.534/97, which provides free registration of births and deaths with the civil authorities; 

-                     Law 9.714/98 which introduces eight new types of sentences as alternatives to imprisonment; 

-                     Supplementary Law 88/96, which establishes a summary process for property transfer procedures in connection with agrarian reform; 

-                     Supplementary Law 93/98 which creates the Land Bank; 

-                     Law 9503/97, which approves the Vehicular Traffic Code. 

6.                  The Commission, as specified in this follow-up report and the conclusions thereto, considers that the State has adopted measures that coincide with the recommendations in its Report of 1997. Those measures have begun to create an infrastructure capable of dealing with and combating human rights violations. However, those efforts have yet to have a decisive impact. Indeed, as the analysis that follows shows, there has been a relative and partial decline in the level of human rights violations; nevertheless serious violations still occur and impunity continues to be the rule. The institutions that promote and defend human rights, as well as those that prevent and punish their violation, are still too weak to deal with either the magnitude of violations and the power that the violators wield (in particular, certain sectors of the police) or with the ineffectiveness of the judicial system. 


7.                  Excessive violence by the civil and “military police” in each state, as well as the impunity of those excesses as a result of the inefficiency of judicial investigations, was one of the main issues addressed by the recommendations contained in the Report of the IACHR in 1997.  The aim of those recommendations was to establish external civil control over which “military” police, who, out of a misplaced esprit de corps obstructed investigations to verify abuses committed by their agents. An alarming display of that esprit de corps took place in June 1997, when, as a result of a protest allegedly on labor-related grounds, various police corps rebelled de facto against the constitutional authorities by illegally suspending their activities and making it necessary to mobilize the Army to take charge of maintaining law and order in many states of the Union.[3] 

8.                  The Commission’s recommendations focus on measures designed to prevent and punish police excesses committed during the use of force.  First the Commission recommended conferring on the ordinary justice system jurisdiction over crimes committed by the police and approving a draft law put forward to that end.  The above has not been accomplished. Although Law 9688, known as the Bicudo Law, was passed in 1996--the original bill of which complied with the Commission’s recommendation in this area--the Congress substantively reduced its scope, by conferring on the common courts only jurisdiction over cases of intentional murder committed by the “military” police. These crimes, however, continue to be investigated by the military justice system. 

9.                  Death squads with police involvement were also the subject of a recommendation by the Commission, which urged that they be investigated, dismantled and their members and leaders punished.  There has been a reduction in the activities of these “death squads” since the creation of the Committee for the Defense of the Individual under the National Human Rights Secretariat. However, jurisdictional restrictions and limited resources have curbed its impact in many states where massacres and other criminal activities attributed to such groups continue. A report on death squads issued by the Committee for Human Rights of the Federal Chamber of Deputies in June highlighted death squad activity with police involvement in the states of Bahia, Rio Grande do Norte, Mato Grosso do Sul, Mato Grosso, Amazonas, Para, Paraiba, Ceara, Espirito Santo, and Acre. The report indicated that death squad activity appears to be declining except in Bahia.[4] 

10.              In Acre, in September 1997, the former president of the judiciary reported the existence of three death squads made up of “military” and civil police officers and taxi drivers, one of them led by the former Chief of Police and ex-state congressman Hildebrando Pascoal.[5]  This was confirmed by the commission appointed by the Human Rights Defense Council (a federal entity), which concluded that the state police were incapable of investigating themselves.  Due to lack of funds it was not possible to send a federal government delegation to investigate the death squads in Acre.[6]  The President of the Supreme Court of Acre, with the assistance of federal officers, reopened 110 cases of murder and torture that had been suspended.  Of those cases, 30 concerned death squads with the involvement of state “military” police officers. 

11.              According to an investigation by the Committee for Human Rights of the Federal Chamber of Deputies, a copy of whose report was sent to the IACHR, Recóncavo da Bahia, in Bahia state, is where death squads operate most brazenly in Brazil.  Executions attributable to death squads numbered 63 for the first four months of the year, compared with 104 for all of 1998, and 93 in 1997.[7]  The area where Matto Grosso do Sul borders on Paraguay and Bolivia is also notorious for death squad activity.  The death squads there are composed of gunmen and police officers, allegedly hired by “fazendeiros (ranchers), traders and politicians.” The killings are connected with drug trafficking, arms smuggling, robberies and revenge.[8]

12.              Also infamous are the death squads in Espirito Santo.  In August the Governor of Espirito Santo (the state with the highest rate of homicide in Brazil) stated publicly that death squad activity involving the police contributed significantly to the level of violence in the state.  A state police investigation and a state parliamentary committee of inquiry confirmed that statement, and reported that Jose Carlos Gratz, the very president of the state assembly, had links to organized crime in the state.[9]  In Pernambuco the number of homicides attributed to those groups rose from 18 to 48 between 1997 and 1998, while over the same period the homicides ascribed to individual police officers went down from 48 to 28. 

13.              The Commission concludes that this alarming practice remains active in many states, despite some progress, such as the expulsion from parliament of two former police chiefs linked to death squads, who succeeded in becoming elected in order to obtain immunity from prosecution.  The Chamber of Deputies of the State of Acre expelled from his parliamentary seat Hildebrando Pascoal, a former “military police” commandant of that state for his involvement in a death squad responsible for the deaths of over 150 people, including the State Governor.  He was arrested on the day after his expulsion and is currently facing criminal proceedings.  In Alagoas, in 1999, again the Parliament expelled one of its members: a former police chief implicated in death squad activities. In São Paulo a police commandant accused of leading the massacre in Carandirú prison in 1993 failed in his attempt at reelection. As a result he lost his parliamentary immunity and is currently being prosecuted.  The Commission reiterates its position that the purpose of parliamentary immunity must be to ensure freedom of action for parliamentarians to represent the citizenry, not to serve to conceal crimes or responsibilities unconnected with parliamentary activities. 

14.              The Commission recommended that the use deadly weapons by the police should only be authorized as a last resort in legitimate defense.  However, the killing of alleged criminals is routinely carried out in incidents that constitute extrajudicial executions.  In São Paulo, the number of deaths caused by the military police (for all reasons, including those that may have been in legitimate defense) in the first half of 1998 came to 165, topping the figure for 1997.  For their part, during that period the Civil Police of São Paulo killed 45 people, triple the number for the same period in 1997.  The Police Ombudsman says that in spite of the progress made in recent years, the obstacles that hinder the investigation, punishment and control of police officers remain in place.  The obstacles he mentions include, a) the fact that the Police Corrections Office only operates in the state capital; b) that the “military police” disciplinary regulations are incompatible with the democratic rule of law; c) that investigations of police officers are carried out by other officers who belong to the same police division; and d) there is no effective victim or witness protection program.  He also listed as contributing factors the inefficiency of the Attorney General’ Office, and the limitation preventing the jurisdictional authority of the ordinary justice system from trying accused “military” police officers. As mentioned below, the “military police” of São Paulo announced in 1999 a series of programs designed to purge the police force. 

15.              In Rio de Janeiro, efforts are underway in the Legislative Assembly to end the practice of giving “awards for bravery” to police officers who kill criminals, and to replace them with awards based on lawful criteria. These efforts are being supported by the current governor, thereby overcoming obstructions left by the police corps and the previous governor.[10] 

16.              The Commission recommended strengthening the systems for monitoring and control of police actions by ensuring their external supervision.  In line with this, police monitoring bodies have been set up in most states, although they are considered weak.  In São Paulo a study by the Police Ombudsman’s Office reveals that in the almost 30 years from 1971 to 1999 only 28 police officers of that state were expelled from the force or punished by demotion, and, of those, only one was a high-ranking officer.  There is a constitutional reform bill in São Paulo that would give the State Governor and not the “military police” the authority to order demotion.  The Police Ombudsman received 6,432 complaints against the police in the 1996-97 period, 1,471 of which were for homicide, torture and abuse of authority.  The Police Ombudsman claims that only 20% of reports of serious incidents are investigated satisfactorily and always involving complaints against the rank and file (recruits and non-commissioned officers), never against ranking officers.  Of 2,359 cases that were sent to police tribunals in São Paulo state between January and October 1998, 64% were retired without a court hearing. Cases were retired for insufficient evidence and failure to identify the police officers responsible. 

17.              Internal monitoring by the police is equally lax in Rio de Janeiro.  A study by "O Globo de 1998” states that the internal review system is totally ineffective. According to the study, of the 53 investigations into police torture that had been opened since Law 9455 was passed in 1996, in which 67 police officers were accused, only two had been concluded and in both cases the accused were acquitted.[11] 

18.              Oversight bodies have been created in other states and in some it is reported that complaints are treated more seriously than they had been in the past, while in others these activities continue to be beset with difficulties.  In Ceara the General Corrections Office for Public Security Organs was created in cooperation with the State Attorney General’s Office and provides a telephone service for registering complaints. In Minas Gerais, the Police Ombudsman’s Office was set up in 1998.  In Rio Grande do Sul the State Government decided to create in 1997 the Committee for the Disciplinary Control of Public Security Organ, which is composed in the main of state representatives working with non-governmental organizations. However, in 1998 it had still not been installed.  In Pará there is a Police Ombudsman’s Office which receives complaints. However, it is alleged that these are not investigated by the Corrections Office.[12] 

19.              Enhanced police effectiveness and training in human rights, the subject of one of the IACHR’s recommendations, is being addressed by various states, either autonomously or with the help of the National Human Rights Secretariat (SNDH).  Thus, São Paulo, Rio Grande do Sul, Minas Gerais, Espirito Santo, Ceará, Sergipe and Bahia have launched training programs in human rights awareness for uniformed police, in some cases with the participation of non-governmental organizations, and in 10 states with Amnesty International.  At the federal level, the Federal Police Academy with the participation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), started a training course in human rights for 300 high-ranking police officers from 21 states. The course is designed for these officers to pass the training on to junior ranking officers and police recruits at the state level. 

20.              In São Paulo, the “military police” had trained one-fifth of its personnel (16.000 out of a total of 80.000) to participate in community policing, and increased the availability of non-deadly weapons. However, human rights organizations considered that these efforts had failed to produce any positive results by the end of 1998.[13]  

21.              In March 1999 the “Military Police” of São Paulo reported that in an internal reorganization drive in the first two and a half months of 1999, they had dismissed 180 men on disciplinary grounds, almost half the number dismissed in the whole of 1998.  They had adopted other measures to reduce police excesses, such as making the selection process more rigorous at the Recruit Training School; training recruits in community policing and human rights; and making it a condition to have a complete high school education.  The “military police” had also launched a program for officers at the Barro Branco Academy for enhancing effectiveness and improving pay. A third measure is the Counseling Program for Police Officers Involved in High-Risk Incidents (Proar) to help them deal with possible traumatic or negative consequences as a result of gun battles. In 1998 Proar dealt with 966 cases of “military” police officers suffering such conditions.  Some measures are counterproductive to police effectiveness; for instance the São Paulo Police has ignored the São Paulo Violence Risk Map, a professional strategic prioritization tool designed in 1995, the findings of which were ignored by the State Secretariat for Public Security.  According to the First National Report (p. 84), only a few battalions showed interest in the findings and were willing to discuss them in order to enhance the effectiveness of their actions.


22.              In its recommendations the Commission focused on the problems that prevent the Brazilian justice system from fulfilling its duty to ensure the right of the population to a fair trial.  The President of Brazil confirmed that preoccupation during an address to the Order of Brazilian Attorneys, in which he said that it was imperative to reform the judicial system in order to tackle its corrupt administration and slowness.[14]  In 1998 the President of the Supreme Court also called attention to the fact that the previous year the Court had ruled on 40.000 cases, the vast majority of which had already been ruled on by the appellate courts. 

23.              The slowness and administrative problems are intimately bound up with impunity and difficulties in investigating and prosecuting government agents, generally “military” police officers, alleged to be responsible for human rights violations.  However, these problems are not limited to the criminal justice system.  Studies carried out by the Institute for Religious Studies (ISER) and the Getulio Vargas Foundation indicate that most of the population in the Rio de Janeiro metropolitan region considers the labor and civil justice systems to be slow and discriminatory. 

24.              Witness protection also prompted recommendations by the Commission.  In July 1998 a law was adopted providing more comprehensive protection for witnesses.  The new law authorizes measures such as change of identity, and provides for reduced sentences for any accused persons who cooperate with government attorneys, with the exception of repeat offenders.  Joint programs based on the PROVITA system are already underway between Government and civil society organizations in Pernambuco, Pará, Matto Grosso do Sul, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. These programs are being extended to cover other states. 

25.              Such delays and ineffectiveness were also found in the military justice system, thereby strengthening the impunity that human rights violations enjoy. In May 1999 an investigation into São Paulo's special courts for uniformed police uncovered 1.107 "missing" and "delayed" cases against uniformed police. The above included 100 murder charges, some delayed by up to 12 years.[15]



26.              The recommendations of the IACHR were aimed at the full implementation of the Statute on Children and Adolescents (one of the most advanced laws in the region) and, in particular, protection of children and adolescents at risk, and of children “on the street” and “of the street”; child workers; children working as prostitutes and in different forms of servitude; and children confined in institutions and prisons.  By the same token the Commission recommended intensifying efforts to set up protection institutions, such as the Tutelary Councils, programs on family education, and adoption of abandoned children in order to ensure the right to education. 

27.              As to child labor, the Commission draws attention to the ratification by the Senate in December 1999 of ILO Conventions Nº 138 and Nº 182, which establish a minimum working age (14 years old), and eliminate all forms of hazardous, unsanitary or degrading work for minors aged 14 to 18.  According to government figures for November 1999, the number of children who work has dropped significantly, and, consequently, the number of those that go to school has grown.  The Commission recalls that in 1994 a study indicated that there were around seven million children working as agricultural laborers in Brazil.[16] Currently there are still around three million minors between the ages of 10 and 14 who work; some 25% work more than 40 hours a week and 60,000 in unsanitary conditions.[17]  There are also still areas where there is a high incidence of child labor, including Alagoas, where 20,000 minors work harvesting cane and tobacco; and Bahia, where 12,000 minors work in the orange industry.[18] 

28.              A positive initiative with respect to rural child labor that the Commission noted was the establishment of an agreement between the Ministry of Social Services of the State of Matto Grosso, the local Sugar Producers Association, and the Rural Workers Federation. This agreement is designed to eliminate child labor in the Mata area, and establish a system of fellowships for children who cease to work as coal miners and go back to school.  The information on the State of Matto Grosso do Sul indicates that the child labor in coal mines has been successfully stopped, following implementation of the PNDH in the state’s 29 municipalities.  These aspects of the PNDH are also being implemented in other states.  The Group for the Elimination of Forced Labor (GETRAF) carried out important work, which must be broadened. 

29.              With respect to the recommendations on protection of children “on the street” and “of the street,” the information received by the IACHR states that, despite measures to reduce police violence against them, its practice continues, very often with impunity.  Some initiatives aimed at getting them to return to school and their family homes have enjoyed a limited degree of success in reducing the high number of children and adolescents “of the street”, which still runs to tens of thousands in Brazil’s urban areas. Figures indicate, inter alia, that in 1998, in Belém do Pará some 2,300 youths under the age of 18 spent their days in the streets, a drop of around 50% compared to 1993. In Rio de Janeiro it was estimated in 1997 that 30,000 minors frequent the streets by day but probably less than 1,000 sleep there; the corresponding figures for São Paulo, meanwhile, were 12,000 and 4,000.[19] 

30.              Several states have complied with the legal obligation underscored by the IACHR with respect to the creation of Tutelary Councils, which are joint government and community participatory organizations set up for the protection of juveniles, and settlement of minor disputes and offences.  In cooperation with the SEDH around 150 such councils, the most notable example being the state of Espirito Santo, where councils have now been established in 50 municipalities.  Furthermore, with support provided by the Federal Government and civil society Child Forums have been created to discuss and propose measures for solving these problems. 

31.              Despite the efforts of more than 40 programs being carried out by different non-governmental organizations with state support, sexual exploitation of minors remains a core problem in Brazil and takes many forms, including open prostitution on the street, child pornography, pedophilia, and sexual tourism.  Among the initiatives instituted to combat this problem, the observers highlighted telephone hot lines which were put into practice in several states and which appear to be producing positive results (in Santa Catarina the number of complaints declined from 1,767 cases in 1996 to 1,534 in 1997, dropping again to 1,213 in 1998).  Another initiative in this area was implemented in the metropolitan region of Rio de Janeiro where the Tutelary Councils and local institutions entered into agreements for ensuring compliance with the Statute on Children and Adolescents, particularly insofar as sexual exploitation of minors is concerned. 

32.              Several of the IACHR’s recommendations addressed the problem of domestic violence and abuse committed against minors.  Studies and activities have been carried out, in particular by Tutelary Councils, which have found that in the majority of cases the different types of physical violence inflicted on children are committed by members of the child’s family. This was true of 90% of cases in Porto Alegre, while in Rio de Janeiro fathers or stepfathers were responsible in 49.2% of cases of sexual abuse of minors. 

33.              Violence against minors in establishments for sheltering children and/or custody of young offenders remains a major problem in Brazil.  The recommendations made and the initiatives implemented to expand and reform these establishments have failed in most cases to improve the situation.  There are ongoing problems of overcrowding, lack of hygiene, absence of effective work and training programs for their rehabilitation, and systematic abuse by their guardians.  This situation has given rise to many revolts, some with tragic consequences. The IACHR was informed of the positive initiative to reform of establishments in Rio de Janeiro, among them the Instituto Padre Severino.  This initiative should be broadened and repeated in other states. 

34.              The Commission was informed that although the figures provided by the Ministry of Education show an increase in enrollment at primary and secondary school level, school failure and absenteeism remain a grave problem, given that almost half Brazilian children do not manage to complete basic education.  The IACHR recommended broadening programs such as that of the “School Fellowship” scheme for providing low-income families with monthly stipends, which are delivered if each child continues to enroll and attend school regularly.  Various states have begun to put this scheme into practice, including Amapá, Amazonas, Bahia, and Pernambuco.  The Commission regrets that the scheme has been canceled in the Federal District, where it originated and had achieved positive results. Other, similar programs, such as “All children in school”, are being put into operation at the federal or state level.  Several states have committed under the Minas Agreement to broaden their action in this area. 

35.              In conclusion, the Commission considers that the State has set in motion at the federal and state level a large number of actions for tackling the above problems, some of which have been effective and have been supported by the community. However, both the magnitude and nature of these problems remain the same and in few cases have there been qualitative changes that have entailed an effective alleviation of the harsh situation endured by broad sectors of the child and adolescent population in Brazil.



36.              In its Report of 1997, the Commission made recommendations on the rights of rural workers regarding access to land as guaranteed by the Brazilian Constitution, and land-related disputes.  Those recommendations basically addressed expansion of the action of the Ministry of Agrarian Reform so as to accelerate the land redistribution process and promote credit; strengthening systems of peaceful negotiation in order to avoid violent disputes over possession and ownership of land; elimination of servitude and punishment of persons who promote and exploit it; and measures to protect the personal security of rural community leaders and human rights defenders. 

37.              In relation to the recommendation to broaden the measures adopted by the Ministry of Agrarian Reform aimed at solving problems originated by those violations, the Commission has noted the creation of the Ministry for Policy on Rural Property, which is the central government body in charge of agrarian reform programs and of the PRONAF (National Program for Strengthening Family-Based Agricultures), which includes the creation of the Land Bank (Banco de la Tierra) with the aim of promoting credit for small-scale producers.  The increased efforts on the part of the State in this area was given an added boost with the passing of the 88-96 Complementary Law, which established a summary process for property transfer procedures designed to push ahead with agrarian reform.  For its part, the aim of Provisional Measure 1901 is to combat the problem of excessive compensation in these property transfers by eliminating late payment charges on court-awarded compensation.[20] 

38.              As regards the related recommendation to accelerate the land redistribution process and promote credit, government figures indicate a rise in redistributed land: 335,000 families (approximately 1.6 million people) were settled between 1995 and 1999, compared to the 218,000 families between 1964 and 1994.  In 1995 to 1999 R$ 3.9 billion (more than U$S 2 billion) were invested in agrarian reform.[21]  However, according to the Commission’s information, over the same period increasing numbers of small-scale farmers and agricultural workers lost their lands or jobs in the framework of structural economic changes lead to concentration of land ownership. 

39.              The Commission has received information indicating that little progress has been made in broadening negotiation mechanisms designed to avoid violent disputes in rural areas over land.  One potentially positive initiative yet to be implemented is to secure the participation of the Attorney General’s Office in ensuring compliance with mandates on restoration of agrarian property.  This general recommendation remains valid, given the growing numbers of disputes in rural areas.  According to the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT), such disputes increased from 736 in 1997 to 1,100 en 1998, doubling the number of peasants involved.  By the same token, the number of violent deaths resulting from disputes of this type went up from 30 to 47 over the same period, with 17 people killed in the first seven months of 1999.  The CPT has also reported that in 1998, such disputes resulted in 488 death threats, 35 workers tortured, 164 physical assaults, and 207 cases of bodily harm. 

40.              As for elimination of servitude, State action has managed significantly to reduce the number of cases and of persons forced to endure this situation. Reports of forced labor dropped from 17 to 14 cases between 1997 and 1998, with the reported number of workers living in servitude declining from 872 to 614.  Those reductions were possible thanks to the joint efforts of government institutions and civil society organizations. The Special Mobile Inspection Group, created by Decree in 1995 as the operational arm of the Executive Group for the Repression of Forced Labor (GERTRAF) was intensely active in states where this is problem is most widespread, in particular Pará.  In all, according to information from the Ministry of Labor and from the CPT, the number of people who remain in servitude in Brazil would appear to have come down to approximately 2,000, making it necessary to step up action in this area, in order to stamp out its practice and prevent it from getting worse.[22] 

41.              Measures designed to protect the personal security of laborers, community leaders and human rights defenders have had little success.  Many laborers and their families, especially those who demand their rights to obtain land continue openly to be attacked and threatened.  The majority of these cases go unpunished due to the negligence of the authorities and the slowness and incapacity of the judicial system.  One deplorable case of violence, which remains unpunished, was the assault on the cleric Rodrigo Perete by the “military police” of Minas Gerais in 1998. 

42.              The situation in the south of the State of Pará continues to be of particular concern.  The Commission has stated its opinion on this situation on various occasions, yet, despite a number of measures adopted by the federal and state governments, serious violations continue to take place in the area with the complicity of the police and the failure of the judicial system to punish those responsible. A report by the Committee for Human Rights of the Federal Chamber of Deputies, indicates that, “the victims, generally speaking, are poor people, agricultural workers and rural community leaders,” and that most of the violations are the outcome of agrarian land disputes. 

43.              In the above report of August 18, 1999, on violations in southern Pará, the parliamentary commission categorizes the complaints as a) those relating to the impunity of criminals as a result of the mishandling of police investigations and criminal proceedings; and b) to illegal practices of failure to carry out duties or obligations by the “military” and civil police of that region.  With respect to the first category, the report cites three massacres as examples: Colonia Picadão in March 1996, where four children and two adults were killed and several other persons seriously wounded--the process is halted, and the Promoter of Justice was threatened by the District Judge himself; Fazenda Santa Clara in January 1997, where three agricultural laborers were murdered--the culprits were identified but the delay in carrying out the order of imprisonment allowed them to escape; Asentamento Travessão in March 1999, where two people were murdered and two others wounded-- six witnesses came forward to identify the murderers but their evidence was deemed worthless and the investigation has run into delays. 

44.              In relation to the second category, concerning reports of illegal failure to carry out duties or obligations by the police in the south of the State of Pará, the parliamentary report highlighted the police’s disobedience of court orders and failure to perform the duty to act ex officio. The report also mentioned “military police” officers accused of various crimes who remain on active duty, and cases of violence and torture at police stations. 

45.              By state law 6236 of July 21, 1999, the State of Pará, in implicit acceptance of its strict responsibility, complied with the recommendation made by the Inter-American Commission to provide compensation to the relatives of the southern Pará trade union leader, João Canuto.[23]  The state granted a special life annuity to his widow, Da. Geraldina Pereira de Oliveira. The state also reported that, Jerónimo Alves, the principal defendant in the proceeding, was arrested by the state police but was released for lack of an order of imprisonment. 

46.              In Case 11.793 being heard by the Inter-American Commission, the State of Rio de Janeiro agreed to provide compensation to the family of the victim, Jorge Antonio Carelli, and implicitly accepted liability for his disappearance. 

47.              In sum, the Commission considers that the government has adopted measures designed to ease tensions in rural areas which generate violations of human rights; and that those measures have gone some way toward improving the pace of land distribution and bringing a noticeable reduction in servitude.  However, meaningful and profound measures have yet to be adopted to reduce violent confrontations connected with the problems of land occupation and allocation, and the impunity of the police or private individuals who violate the rights to life and to personal security of agricultural workers, as well as of human rights defenders acting on the latter’s behalf.



48.              The situation of the 300,000 indigenous persons in Brazil, who occupy a large portion of the national territory (around 11%) was the subject of recommendations by the IACHR to the State, in particular with reference to demarcation, titling, and protection of their territories; and to adequate measures for improving the precarious health and education services they currently receive. 

49.              The Federal government made rapid progress in the demarcation, approval and titling of indigenous lands.  As a result, in 1998 this process had been completed or was at an advanced stage for 90% of the indigenous land area. Between 1995 and 1998, 25 million hectares of indigenous lands (115,000 square miles) were titled. However, a number of important cases were awaiting solution, among them that of the Macuxi lands in the State of Pará, in regard of which the IACHR made special recommendations.  The Federal Government adopted measures in 1998 to grant final approval and titles for those lands as a single block and not separate areas.  However, according to the information received, various lawsuits brought by state institutions and private parties have prevented giving effect to the federal executive’s decision. 

50.              In some states the situation regarding indigenous lands is far from being solved.  The clearest such case is the State of Amazonas, which contains one-third of Brazil’s indigenous population and 170 indigenous territories, 84 of which have not been identified.  Of the remainder, 49 are registered and 35 are in process of demarcation or approval.[24] 

51.              Indigenous lands were also adjudicated in Pernambuco but their ownership cannot be transferred by decision of the State Supreme Court, which is examining lawsuits brought by squatters who have appropriated these lands.  These legal actions are blocking the removal of 181 fazendeiros, who are operating on adjudicated lands, and, as a result, the federal executive cannot give final approval for them. 

52.              Another case in which the IACHR had made recommendations was resolved in Espirito Santo in 1998, following a settlement reached between the State and the Tupiniquim people. Under this settlement, the Tupiniquim, in return for monetary compensation and other benefits, agreed to reduce their claims on additional lands, which they were demanding on top of those already recognized by the Ministry of Justice. 

53.              With respect to the recommendation to protect the lands and habitat of indigenous peoples, the Government has continued to operate, albeit irregularly, a patrol service to prevent invasion of indigenous lands by miners, garimpeiros (small-scale extractive prospectors) and illegal loggers.  According to data for 1998, serious incidents of police violence continue in the Brazilian Amazon region and supervision by the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI) remains weak.  In several states, in particular in Amazonas, Indians reportedly continue to suffer from a severe lack of basic services, such as security, justice, health and education.[25]  In 1997 the infant mortality rate among the Yanomami people, for instance, was 130 per 1,000 live births, eight times higher than that of non-indigenous infants. 

54.              In conclusion, the Commission considers that the State has undertaken numerous efforts that have had a positive effect in protecting the lives and property of indigenous peoples, and sought creatively to settle a number of disputes; and that these efforts must be continued and enhanced.  The Commission further concludes that institutions at the state level and local interest groups continually use either violent methods or abuse the justice administration system either to block or to infringe on those rights.  Given the magnitude of the problems that persist and the ongoing aggression against the lands and lives of indigenous persons, the Commission recommends that the State continue and step up its efforts to protect them, including, to that end, measures adopted, not only by the federal executive, but also by legislatures and judiciaries at the federal and state levels.



55.              The Commission recommended adoption of measures to combat abuse and violence against women, their forcible exploitation, discrimination, and underestimation of their value in the labor market and in positions of political and economic power, as well as abolition of archaic and discriminatory measures.  Most major cities and towns have established special police offices to deal with crimes of domestic or sexual violence against women.  In 1998 there were some 200 of these special delegations, although they are practically unheard of in rural areas. 

56.              Reliable sources indicate that men who commit crimes against women, including sexual assault and murder, are rarely convicted.  Although the Supreme Court abolished the concept of “defense of honor” as justification for murdering a wife, the courts are still reluctant to prosecute and convict men who claim they killed their wives for marital infidelity.  This last point is particularly significant, given that, in June 1998, the National Human Rights Movement reported that female murder victims were 30 times more likely to have been killed by current or former husbands or lovers than by others. 

57.              Hundreds of complaints of domestic violence against women continue to flow into specialized delegations that have begun to be set up in different states.  Such violence is not confined to poorly educated and low-income sectors, but occurs also --as a study at Paraiba Federal University shows--among university--educated and middle-income sectors.[26] 

58.              Another ongoing alarming problem is the situation of large numbers of people who work in the sex trade and prostitution, particularly women, many of whom are exploited and forced to engage in such activities against their will.  There are a number of interesting initiatives underway to combat this problem, among them those carried out by the Worker’s Protection Fund, a Belo Horizonte state institution, which funds initiatives aimed helping women in such situations to recover their dignity.[27] 

59.              The specialized unit recently created by the police in Rio de Janeiro state to deal with trafficking in women and children reported 15 investigations underway in 1998; 12 on trafficking to Spain, two to Israel and one to Japan. 

60.              According to the Commission’s information there is still a significant level of discrimination in the labor market.  Official statistics for 1998 indicate that women with a high school education earn 63% of the salary earned by men with the same level of education. A documented example appears in a study conducted by the Paraiba State Council on Women’s Rights, which indicates that men earn twice as much as women for the same job.  


61.              The National Human Rights Plan contains recommendations in this area that coincide with those of the Commission and are being put into practice by the authorities. Law 9459 was passed in 1997 categorizing the crimes of discrimination based on ethnic group, religion or national origin, and provides

enalties and fines for promulgation of pejorative terms for ethnic or racial groups, of use of nazi symbols, and of national hatred.[28] 

62.              According to government statistics, a black Brazilian with a high school education earns on average half as much as his white counterpart.  Equally, illiteracy and high school or university enrollment rates among the black population are lower than those of the rest of the population.  In addition black people are much more likely to be murder victims, killed by the police, and convicted by the justice system.[29] 

63.              The Committee for Human Rights of the São Paulo Legislature reported the existence of neo-nazi groups in São Paulo and southern Brazil, which attack and incite hatred against African-Brazilians and the poor. 

64.              In several states the State restored to traditional afro-Brazilian communities known as quilombos the lands where they live or have lived, and explicitly recognized the historical truth of their dispossession.  Efforts are also underway to ensure that discriminatory connotations are avoided in educational materials. 

65.              In Pernambuco, the Center for Black Studies, in cooperation with the State Secretariat for Justice and the SNDH, is carrying out a project to sensitize and provide training to community leaders, lawyers, judges and judiciary officials on appropriate action in cases of racial discrimination, and to provide assistance to victims of those crimes.  The authorities of the State of Pernambuco, in conjunction with the NGO Djumbay and the Center for Racial Identity, are implementing public policies to combat racial discrimination. 

66.              In 1997, the federal government’s Inter-Ministerial Group for Recognition of the Black Population published 29 recommendations to the authorities, which referred, inter alia, to the creation of affirmative action systems in the area of university enrollment and the right to stand for public office.



67.              The recommendations of the Commission sought to emphasize the urgent need for compliance with international standards and with the provisions contained in the Constitution on treatment of detainees.  In particular, the recommendations proposed ending overcrowding, improving the level of hygiene, offering work and skills development programs, and separating convicted inmates from those awaiting trial.  The Commission particularly recommended improving strategies, norms, and practices for preventing, avoiding, and, if necessary, quelling prison riots and outbreaks of violence. 

68.              Severe overcrowding in prisons remains a generalized problem and is increasing in the states with the largest prison populations (São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Bahia, Rio Grande Do Sul, and Pernambuco).  In November 1998, the Congress adopted law 9417-98, which increases the categories of criminals eligible to serve sentences without being confined in a prison, and establishes a further eight forms of sentencing as alternatives to imprisonment.  Unfortunately, according to the information received there is insufficient infrastructure for supervising parolees and community service, and, moreover, judges are prone to issue prison convictions, all of which contributes to underutilization of these positive alternative measures.  A report by the United Nations Latin American Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders (ILANUD) indicated that in São Paulo only 200 of the 1,700 places for parolees were in use in September 1999. 

69.              In São Paulo an important plan was finalized for the construction of new prison establishments with room for an additional 18,000 prisoners. Nevertheless overcrowding continues. Despite the creation of new prisons, the existing prisons continue to hold approximately the same number of inmates (30,000) as they did before the new ones were opened.  In Pernambuco, the situation has deteriorated so badly that in 1997 there were 6,265 prisoners in establishments with a design capacity of one-third that amount (2,370).  The above situation led to rioting and revolts, including the tragic incident at Barreto Capello Prison in 1998, which resulted in the violent deaths of 22 inmates. 

70.              Riots and revolts continue to occur in various states, including Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte and São Paulo.  In the first seven months of 1998, 103 prison riots occurred in São Paulo state, where 40% of the country’s prison population resides.  In June 1998 the Police Inspectorate carried out an investigation into reports of systematic torture that had occurred in January and February. The investigation concluded that of 350 prisoners detained in one establishment during those two months, 107 showed signs of a pattern of beating that included fracturing of fingers, limbs, and jaws.  The civil police expelled four police officers from the force as a result.  In the Federal District, for the first time since a law against torture was passed in 1997, a police officer was convicted of torturing a detainee who had been arrested as a result of a traffic accident. 

71.              The problem of overcrowding and lack of adequate medical care for inmates is compounded by the fact that, according to Ministry of Justice figures, between 10% and 20% of the prison population is HIV positive. 

72.              As if to reinforce the above negative trends, the Archdiocese’s Pastoral Carcelaria (Prisons Service) has reported the increasing difficulty in some states for attorneys, human rights workers, and representatives of organizations for the defense of detainees, to gain free access to prisoners’ cellblocks.



73.              In its report, the Commission drew attention to violations of social, economic and cultural rights in particular, in Brazil, since those rights are affected by the skewed income distribution and circumstances so dire as to impair other basic rights, such as the rights to life, humane treatment, education, and of the family.  Furthermore, such circumstances are a social breeding ground for numerous other violations of human rights. 

74.              A report commissioned by the Federal Government’s National Human Rights Secretariat (SNDH), which contains official figures, shows that income distribution in Brazil continues to be among the most regressive in the world, and that this situation is not only typical of its remote states, whose economies are heavily dependent on agriculture (Alagoas, Acre, Bahia, and Ceará, where the wealthiest 10% of the population possess between 50% and 55% of the income, while the poorest 40% have only seven to nine percent). Marked differences in income are also prevalent in the urban and industrial central states. (In the Federal District, Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais, the wealthiest 10% of the population earn between 45% and 48% of total income, compared to 9% to 10% for the poorest 40%).[30]  In Brazil as a whole, on average, the richest 10% earn 5.7 times more than the poorest 40%.[31] 

75.              The concentration of poverty in some areas wreaks additional havoc.  En Alagoas, 62% of the population is unemployed, and 51.6% of those who are employed earn less than the minimum wage.  In Amazonas, the situation is similar.  In Foz de Iguazu, the influx and settlement of Paraguayan citizens emigrating from their country caused the number of favelas (shantytowns) to increase from 45 to 75 between 1996 and 1998.  The Federal Government has launched the “Amazonia Solidaria” Program in the states of Brazil’s Amazon region with the aim of providing assistance for low-income sectors.


            XI.       CONCLUSIONS 

76.              The Federal Government of Brazil has adopted some significant measures designed to comply with the objectives mentioned in the Commission’s recommendations in its Report of 1997, as well as coinciding with the National Human Rights Program set in motion 1996.  Those measures adopted by the Federal State, which some member states of the Union have sought--albeit to varying degrees--to emulate, have accomplished some changes in the human rights situation in Brazil.  While those changes are limited when viewed against the gravity of the situation, in and of themselves they are positive and deserve to be highlighted.  

77.              In the opinion of the IACHR the measures that have achieved the most substantial effect are those adopted in such areas as elimination of servitude, reduction of child labor, demarcation and recognition of indigenous lands, distribution of unproductive lands to peasants, and creation of community-based agencies for providing assistance to especially vulnerable groups. 

78.              Also important have been legislative initiatives aimed at improving the situation of human rights, through preventive measures and via effective punishment of violations.  Among those initiatives the Commission again underscores the importance for the protection of rights of Brazil’s acceptance of the compulsory contentious jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. 

79.              Finally, the Commission wishes to praise the measures adopted that have been creating a nascent broad-based culture of respect for human rights.  The above include the establishment by Offices of the Attorneys General at all levels of State Prosecutor’s Offices and of Citizen Defense Promoters’ Offices.  They also include the creation in several states of Councils against Violence composed of authorities and non-governmental organizations; and of Committees for the Defense of Human Rights in several state legislative assemblies. 

80.              However, the Commission can only concur with the conclusions of the First National Report to the effect that “violence is still present in Brazil in different forms: common crime; massacres; extrajudicial execution; rape of minors; exploitation of children and adolescents; abuse in prison establishments, and in institutions for the custody of minors; discrimination; and intolerance. This violence is fueled by continuing serious inequalities and high rates of unemployment, by ongoing authoritarian values and practices in various sectors of society and state entities, and by impunity.” 

81.              In that sense, the Commission must stress that many of the measures adopted in connection with its recommendations have had a minimal effect.  The most obvious example is that of police violence and the impunity of “military” police officers who commit abuses and crimes. 

82.              In this regard, the Commission reiterates the importance of conferring on the common justice system jurisdiction over all offences committed by either “military” or civil police officials, through the timely approval of the bill presented by the Executive Branch to that end.  By the same token, the Commission reiterates its recommendation to federalize the treatment of human rights violations, thereby making it possible to transfer to the Union the duty to investigate, prosecute and punish such violations, in the event of inertness or ineffectiveness on the part of state authorities. 

83.              Also largely ineffective have been measures to lessen Brazil’s profoundly distorted income distribution and access to social opportunity and in particular, the negative backlash of that inequality on the poor and African-Brazilian population, who have to endure the discriminatory imposition against them of police actions and violence, criminal prosecution, and prison sentences. 


Lastly, the Commission considers that--albeit in different measures--the basic conditions remain that prompted it to make the recommendations contained in the Report of 1997, which it reiterates with the aim that full observance of the human rights guaranteed in the American Convention may be accomplished in Brazil.  


          85.     The draft report on the situation of human rights in Brazil was approved by the Commission during its 106º regular session.  It was sent to the State on March 10, 2000, pursuant to Article 63(h) of the Commission´s Regulations, in order to allow for the submission of observations within thirty days. 

          86.     The Brazilian State failed to present observations within the time limited provided. 

          87.     On April 13, 2000, the Commission approved this report and its publication within Chapter V of the present Annual Report.

[ Table of Contents | Previous | Next ]


[1] IACHR, Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Brazil, 1997. OEA/Ser.L/V/II.97 Doc. 29 rev. 1. This report may be consulted at the IACHR web site at

[2] The Commission has had access, inter alia, to reports prepared by commissions of enquiry of the Federal Congress and state legislatures, which have been of great value in exposing and securing convictions for human rights violations.

[3] Data on the different states where the Army had to intervene are contained in the First National Report.

[4] U.S. State Department, Report on Human Rights for 1999, p. 10.

[5] In October 1998 the Chamber of Deputies stripped Hildebrando Pascoal of his parliamentary immunity.

[6]  First National Report, pp. 10-11.

[7]  U.S. State Department, Report on Human Rights for 1999, p. 10.

[8] First National Report, p. 41.

[9] U.S. State Department, Report on Human Rights for 1999, p. 11.

[10] The current Governor took office in 1999.

[11]  U.S. Department of State. Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1998, Brazil, February 26, 1999.

[12]  First National Report, p. 48.

[13] Human Rights Watch, op cit.

[14] A parliamentary enquiry concluded that much of the U$S 300,000,000 in cost overruns on the construction of court buildings (which remain unfinished) in São Paulo went into the private funds of a high-ranking judiciary official and a senator. For years prosecuting attorneys were incapable of uncovering the evidence that was obtained by the Parliamentary Committee. New York Times, November 22, 1999.

[15] U.S. Department of State, Country Report for 1999. Brazil, p.3.

[16] Guerra, Rosangela, “A Infancia Perdida”, in Nova Escola, May 1994.

[17] U.S. Department of State, Country Report on Human Rights Practices.  January 1999. Brazil, p. 22.

[18] First National Report, 1999.

[19] U.S. Dept. of State Report for 1999. Brazil p. 35.

[20] See Brazilian Ministry of Agrarian Reform, “Livro Branco das Superindemnizacãos”.

[21] Jornal do Brazil, November 1, 1999. Declarations by the Minister of Agrarian Reform, Raul Jungmann.

[22] It should be recalled that in 1992, according to estimates by the University of São Paulo, approximately 60,000 laborers were being forced to live in servitude on some 300 fazendas around the country.

[23] See IACHR, 1997 Annual Report, Case 11.297, João Canuto de Oliveira, Report Nº 24/98.

[24] Data provided by the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI), Ministry of Justice, “FUNAI. 30 Years,” 1998.

[25] First National Report.

[26] First National Report, p. 54.

[27] First National Report, p. 46.

[28] The mention of this law in this Follow-Up Report does not signify the passing judgment about the consistency of that law with the provisions enshrined in Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights.

[29] National Human Rights Movement, O Cor do Medo. Homicidios e Relacões Raciais no Brazil. s/d. See also U.S. State Dept. “Country Reports…”, 1999.

[30] First National Report.

[31] Folha de São Paulo, August 23, 1998.