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Organizations denounce racism and Quilombola rights violations to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission

Lack of Brazilian State commitment to territory titling and growing undermining of policies are subject of Commission hearing in Bolivia. Brazilian government is urged to respond


Brazilian organizations and social movements will report, this Wednesday (13), at a hearing during the 171st Period of Sessions of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission (IAHRC), on the racist context of growing human rights violations suffered by Quilombola communities in Brazil. The hearing will take place in Sucre, Bolivia.

Representatives of the National Coordination of Black Rural Quilombola Community Articulation (CONAQ) and representatives of the organizations Terra de Direitos and the Association of Rural Workers’ Lawyers (AATR) will submit data to IAHCR rapporteurs providing evidence of the Brazilian State not fulfilling its obligations in ensuring the right of this population to territory, to community consultations and to life. The public hearing was requested by the organizations that will attend it and also by the Maranhão Black Culture Center (CCN/MA), the Land Pastoral Commission, the Socio-Environmental Institute (ISA) and Global Justice.

In situations such as these, as Brazil is a member state of the Organization of American States (OAS), of which IAHRC is one of the principal organs, the country is convened to take part in the hearing and answer regarding the complaints filed. This will be the first session to e held with Brazil’s new federal government, but IAHRC has been dealing with this issue since 2007. Thus far the government has not confirmed that it will attend the audience.

In recent years, because of the increase in murders of Quilombolas and the long delay in territory titling, the organizations have frequently turned to the Commission. As a result, in October 2017 and 2018, the organizations submitted data to IAHRC providing evidence of the Brazilian State’s failure to realize the Quilombolas’ constitutional right to land as provided for by Article 68 of the country’s Transitory Constitutional Disposition Act and ILO Convention 169. Although IAHRC has made recommendations to the Brazilian State, not only has no progress been made with the territory titling policy in recent years, but also the titling service structure and titling budget have been cut back recently. Since the last report submitted to the Commission, in 2018, the government has not signed a single Quilombola territory expropriation decree.

“The hearing is fundamental for establishing some sort of dialogue between the communities and human rights organizations on the one hand and the Federal Government on the other, given that so far the Government has not officially manifested itself on the matter. We hope IAHRC will continue to monitor this issue and recommend that the Brazilian State implement a national plan for titling all the Quilombola territories in a reasonable period of time”, states Terra de Direitos’ legal advisor, Fernando Prioste.

Declarations made by Brazil’s new president, Jair Bolsonaro (PSL), that he will not move an inch with territory titling, together with the administrative reconfiguration of the relevant ministries, are expected to intensify the threats to the Quilombolas and their ever more precarious living conditions.

Rights violations
The Brazilian State’s long delay in titling Quilombola territories is highlighted in the international complaint. Taking titling done so far as a reference, it is estimated that at this rate the Brazilian State would take over 600 years to Grant the titles for the Quilombola communities in Brazil. Given the political paralysation by the new government, it will likely take even longer. For the organizations, given that some 31 cases are paralysed in the Chief of Staff’s Department at the Office of the President of the Republic, awaiting only the signing of the decree that would finalize the titling of these 31 territories, it is clear that there is no political interest in this issue.

The budget in 2019 for Quilombola territory titling is BRL 3,423,082. This is approximately 13% of the current demand for resources to enable expropriation in 17 Quilombola communities, which is all that is stopping them from having access to the territory. The budget allocated to territory titling differs somewhat from the retrospective debt of BRL 15.3 billion owed by ruralists (Inland Revenue data) that the government indicates it will write off. “This allocation of public resources is evidence of institutional racism: resources exist, but not for the Quilombola communities”, states Fernando Prioste.

Another complaint filed by the organizations refers to failure to hold free prior informed consultations with the communities regarding the administrative changes brought about by Provisional Measure No. 870/2019 and by Palmares Cultural Foundation Normative Instruction No. 1/2018, regarding environmental licensing administrative processes for construction works that affect Quilombolas communities.

Violating Article 6 of ILO Convention 169, the Quilombolas were not consulted about the relocation of the National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform (INCRA), the body responsible for territory titling, from the President’s Chief of Staff’s Department to the Ministry of Agriculture. Both the Ministry, headed by Tereza Cristina (PSL), and the Secretariat for Landed Property Matters, lead by Nabhan Garcia, are bodies commanded by figures linked to agribusiness and opponents of the Quilombola territory titling policy.

There is also the risk of Decree 4887/03 being revoked. The Decree deals with the identification, recognition, delimitation, demarcation and titling of land occupied by remaining members of the Quilombola communities. If it is revoked this would interrupt once and for all the territory titling process, increasing violence directed towards the communities, which is an issue of concern for the organizations. The recent Federal Decree No. 9685/2019, which flexibilizes the buying and owning of firearms in Brazil, especially for people living in rural areas, will have repercussions on rural conflicts.  

Further Information 
Hearing of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission (IAHRC) “Human rights situation of Quilombola communities in Brazil”
Date:  13/02, from 11.30 a.m. to 12.30 p.m.  (local time)
Venue: Sucre/Bolivia  
Live transmission on the IAHRC channel on YouTube

Actions: Quilombolas
Axes: Earth, territory and space justice