Inter-American Court condemns Brazil for violating indigenous rights

In addition to speeding up indigenous land demarcation measures, the

Published in 16/03/2018 - 14:02 By Jonas Valente reports from Agência Brasil - Brasília

Brasília - Índios fazem manifestação na Esplanada dos Ministérios (Wilson Dias/Agência Brasil)

Land demarcation is among the oldest demands made by Brazilian indigenous people.Wilson Dias/Agência Brasil

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) this week published a decision in which it holds the Brazilian state accountable for the violation of several rights of the Xukuru people, like the failure to demarcate traditional territories, offer legal protection, and ensure legal proceedings with swiftness.

The court classified land demarcation in the town of Pesqueira, in the northeastern state of Pernambuco, as sluggish, and ruled that the federal government should ensure the Xukuru people’s right to property by implementing measures like the payment of compensation and the removal of ranchers and posseiros—as farm workers occupying unused land are known—from the area. Another ruling saw the end of the legal cases judged by ranchers concerning the region.

The court has set an 18-month deadline for the decisions to be implemented. After a year, the federal government must present a report with details on the progress of the measures adopted. Also imposed was the payment of some $1 million in compensation for intangible damage.

The Xukuru comprise approximately 2,200 people in 24 communities in its territory in Pernambuco, in addition to another 4 thousand in the municipality of Pesqueira, where the land to be assigned to the indigenous is located.

Jovem da Cia de Teatro Mandaru do povo Xukuru do Ororubá, localizado no município de Pesqueira (PE), encenando a peça teatral Mandaru no Reino de Ororubá, no Instituto Cajamar, Cajamar, São Paulo.

The Xukuru comprise approximately 2,200 people in 24 communities in its territory in Pernambuco, in addition to another 4 thousand in the municipality of Pesqueira. Photo/Moreno Saraiva Martins

Unprecedented decision

“When the Brazilian state delayed the demarcation of indigenous land in the Serra do Ororubá, the Xukuru people had to cope with murders, threats, and faced criminalization. Our right to land was denied by the state. Losses are irreparable, but we believe some justice has been made,” indigenous chief Marco Xukuru celebrated.

Adelar Cupsinski, laywer at the Missionary Indigenous Council (CIMI), who monitored the development of the case, referred to the decision as historic, as, he argues, it is the first time the Brazilian state has been condemned in connection with indigenous rights.

“This will reverberate in Brazil’s public agencies as it compels them to follow the rulings, and I believe this will make a positive impact also on Brazilian courts, which should start taking IACHR’s positions into account,” he said.


The land demarcation process started in 1989. Arguing measures were  sluggish, the indigenous started reclaiming the land in 1990. In 1992, one of them was murdered. In 1995, a lawyer from Brazil’s National Indian Foundation (FUNAI) who helped the Xukuru was also killed; then, chief Chicão in 1998, and later on also chief Chico Quelé, in 2001.

In 2003, chief Chicão’s son, Marcos Xukuru, was ambushed, and two indigenous were killed. CIMI claims the investigation into the killing of chief Chicão was overseen by five Federal Police commissioners, who nonetheless reached no conclusions. After demands were made by the people and as well as federal prosecutors, a new commissioner was appointed, who discovered the murder had been perpetrated by a rancher.

In 2002, CIMI and the Legal Counseling Cabinet for Popular Organizations (GAJOP) filed a motion with the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights. In 2015, the commission decided that the Brazilian state was taking too long in making effective efforts to demarcate the land, and submitted the case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which held a public hearing in 2017. The final decision was unveiled this week.

Translated by Fabrício Ferreira

Fonte: Inter-American Court condemns Brazil for violating indigenous rights

Edition: Maria Claudia / Nira Foster

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