Press Release

IACHR Expresses Deep Concern over Regression in Human Rights in Brazil

May 18, 2016

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its deep concern over decisions adopted by interim Brazilian president Michel Temer that represent a regression and have a negative impact on the protection and promotion of human rights in the country.

The designation of a cabinet of ministers that does not include any women or persons of African descent leaves more than half the population excluded from the highest government offices. The last time Brazil had a cabinet with no female ministers was during the military dictatorship. On that point, Michel Temer’s chief of staff, Eliseu Padilha, told journalists, “We tried to find women, but for reasons we don’t need to bring up right now, we discussed it and it wasn’t possible.” White men, who hold the totality of cabinet-level positions in the country, account for 21.9 percent of the population, according to the federal government of Brazil’s Institute for Applied Economic Research. The groups excluded from Michel Temer’s cabinet, for their part, are women (51.4 percent) and non-white men (26.7 percent). Also alarming is the elimination of the Ministry of Women, Racial Equality, and Human Rights, which ended up being subsumed within the Ministry of Justice as a Secretariat.

Moreover, the IACHR takes cognizance of the interim government’s announcement that it will reduce the funding earmarked for social programs related to housing, education, and poverty reduction. In this regard, the IACHR calls to mind the principles of progressiveness and non-regression in the area of economic, social, and cultural rights. By virtue of the obligation to adopt progressive measures, established in the Protocol of San Salvador—which was ratified by Brazil in 1996—the State, in principle, is forbidden from adopting policies, measures, and laws that, without proper justification, worsen the situation of economic, social, and cultural rights enjoyed by the population. The undermining or worsening by the State of those factors without just cause would constitute an unauthorized regression under the Protocol.

President Dilma Rousseff, who was constitutionally elected by popular vote, was suspended from office for 180 days by decision of the legislature, which at the end of that period will cast a final vote on whether or not to permanently remove her from office. In this situation, the Inter-American Commission calls on the legislative branch to act strictly within the framework of the law and in keeping with the principles of international human rights law. In this regard, the IACHR calls to mind that Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states the following: “The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.”

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 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. 067/16