IACHR Grants Precautionary Measures in Favor of Members of Pataxó Indigenous People in Brazil

April 24, 2023

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Washington, DC—On April 24, 2023, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued Resolution 25/2023, through which it granted precautionary protection measures in favor of members of the Pataxó indigenous people of the Barra Velha and Comexatibá Indigenous Lands in Bahia, Brazil, after identifying them to be at serious, urgent risk of suffering irreparable harm to their human rights.

The Pataxó Indigenous People is made up of about 12,000 people who are distributed in 29 communities in the municipalities of Porto Seguro, Itamajuru, Itabela, and Prado, in the state of Bahia, Brazil. According to the petitioning party, the Pataxó People have been experiencing "ongoing violence" since June 2022 as part of conflicts around the definition of their territory. The beneficiaries have reportedly begun to experience reprisals in the form of threats, harassment with weapons, shootings, and smear and disinformation campaigns, culminating in three murders of indigenous people, including two teenagers. The alleged attacks were perpetrated by ranchers and members of militias and allegedly entailed the use of firearms and the direct involvement of State security forces.

The State has acknowledged the alleged risk and claimed that it has been adopting measures to address it. Specifically, it noted that it has established and reinforced a task force to prevent new conflicts, arrested members of the military police suspected of the murders of three Pataxó indigenous people, seized weapons and military equipment, reinforced security forces in the region through new garrisons, created the Integrated Force to Combat Common Crimes involving Traditional Peoples and Communities, and presented the Integrated Action Plan to Combat Violence against Traditional Peoples and Communities, among other initiatives.

The IACHR looked positively on the measures adopted by the State to respond to the risk inherent in this situation and address the root cause of the territorial dispute. However, it noted that despite these measures, the Pataxó beneficiaries remained at risk and are experiencing an ongoing lack of protection. On this point, the IACHR observed that the implementation of several measures proposed by the State were still pending, such as the on-site visits by the mission established by the Crisis Office. Likewise, the IACHR has not received information on concrete protection measures implemented in favor of the Pataxó leaders included in the Program for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders.

In accordance with Article 25 of its Rules of Procedure, the IACHR decided to grant precautionary measures and requested that the State of Brazil:

  1. adopt the necessary measures to protect the life and personal integrity of the members of the Pataxó Indigenous People in question, including against acts carried out by third parties, taking into the cultural significance of any measures that are adopted into consideration;
  2. coordinate any measures to be adopted with the beneficiaries and their representatives; and
  3. report on the actions it implements to investigate the events that led to the adoption of this precautionary measure so as to prevent them from being repeated.

The fact that this precautionary measure has been granted and its adoption by the State does not entail a prejudgment on any petition that may eventually be filed before the inter-American system to allege that the rights protected by the American Convention and other applicable instruments have been violated.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 072/23

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