On International Human Rights Day, Grassroots International’s partner the Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB) became a full member of Brazil’s National Human Rights Council (CNDH). They will serve governmental body for the 2018-2020 term, representing the collective movements of La Via Campesina in Brazil.
In the article below, MAB discusses why being on the CNDH matters today.
The elections of councilors and advisers of the National Human Rights Council (CNDH) took place on December 10th. This was the largest election in the history of the institution, with more than 68 civil society entities with national representation electing the new leadership. This body will serve during the period of 2018-2020.
For the third consecutive time, La Via Campesina elected its own representative for the Council. For the two previous terms, the Missionary Indigenous Council (CIMI) represented La Via Campesina. The Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB) served as the alternate. Today, MAB assumes the chairship, and the Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) is the alternate.
MAB has participated in several commissions during the previous period: the Standing Committees on the Rights of indigenous, quilombola and traditional communities; committees on the rights of populations affected by corporations; committees on the rights of rural workers and land conflicts; and the Permanent Human Rights Defenders Commission Confronting Social Movement Criminalization. MAB also participated of the National Council of Human Rights missions to Belo Monte, in Basin of the Doce River and in indigenous communities in the southern of Brazil.
The role of the CNDH is to analyze allegations of human rights violations in Brazil. It is an organ of the Brazilian State, not of the elected government, functioning similarly to the Human Rights Council of the United Nations or of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights within the Organization of American States. In a context of attacks on rights and violent and hateful rhetoric, the National Human Rights Council is of great relevance.
According to Leandro Scalabrin, lawyer and MAB activist who will represent Via Campesina in the Council, « we are experiencing a process of withdrawal of rights and regression in labor and social security rights. These setbacks are violations of human rights. This is happening in a context of systematic violation of rights committed by companies, whether those of agribusiness or of large development projects. The violation of rights are also committed by the State, in the scope of the Judiciary, by applying the curtailment of fundamental guarantees of freedom. Also with the creation of new offices with powers concentrated in the federal government and by applying extreme police violence in their actions ».
Scalabrin cited the brutal action of the Military Police of Paraná, which is the probable responsible for the fire that led the destruction of 300 houses in the urban occupation community named March 29, located in the Industrial City of Curitiba (CIC). He also pointed to the violence against activists of popular movements, like the murder of José Bernardo da Silva, known as Orlando and Rodrigo Celestino, members of Landless Workers Movement (MST) in Paraíba. They were killed by unidentified people who entered heavily armed in the encampment of José Maria Pires, located in the municipality of Alhandra.
« It is within this context that the new management of the Council takes over, and the situation reveals the importance of our participation in the National Council, » explains Scalabrin. « It is fundamental to counteract the withdrawal of rights and setbacks; as well as to denounce the violations at national and international level, to demand from companies and the Brazilian State reparation for the victims. We will be the resistance! »