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Brazil: Attack on Antonio Alves and death threats against Human Rights Defenders from Quilombo Onça in Maranhão


By Front Line Defenders

June 26, 2024


Credits @FFHR.CZ



Front Line Defenders expresses deep concern regarding the increase in attacks against quilombola human rights defenders in Brazil, as well as the killings of human rights defenders, in particular against those who defend their territories and communities in states such as Maranhão.


On 30 May 2024, human rights defender and quilombola Antonio Alves, 73, was attacked and beaten with the back of a rifle by two men on the way from his community to the town of Santa Ines, in Maranhão. The men fired shots, which fortunately did not hit Antonio Alves or the other quilombola who was accompanying him. They also made death threats against the human rights defender, as well as against three other leaders and human rights defenders from Quilombo Onça, Antonio Jean, Valdivino Lopes and Reginaldo da Conceição, whom they warned would be killed next.


Antonio Alves, Antonio Jean, Valdivino Lopes and Reginaldo da Conceição are quilombola leaders from the Onça Quilombo, located in the Médio Mearim region, in the municipality of Santa Ines - Maranhão. They are members of the Quilombola Movement of Maranhão (MOQUIBOM) and the National Articulation of Quilombos (ANQ), as well as organizers of the Web of Traditional Peoples and Communities of Maranhão. Since 2010, Quilombo Onça has been fighting for the title to its traditional lands, which are being invaded and deforested by ranchers to raise beef cattle.


On 30 May, human rights defender and quilombola Antonio Alves, 73, was attacked and beaten with the back of a rifle by two men on the way from his community to the town of Santa Ines, in Maranhão. The human rights defender was seriously injured, with damage to his eyesight and to one ear. He had recently undergone eye surgery and lost his glasses at the time of the attack. The attackers fired shots and made death threats against the human rights defender and three other leaders and human rights defenders from Quilombo Onça, Antonio Jean, Valdivino Lopes and Reginaldo da Conceição, whom they warned would be killed next. After the attack, the human rights defender filed a police report the same day with the Maranhão State Civil Police, in which he also reported death threats made against the other three leaders of the Onça Quilombo. Despite the report to the local authorities, there has so far been no progress in the investigations.


On April 19, the Quilombo Onça community had its fields and crops destroyed after a farmer and six of his employees released 250 cattle into the quilombola territory. The attack destroyed the crops that would have normally sustained the families for several months. The community has been facing threats and intimidation due to the context of conflict with local landowners. The quilombolas claim that the farmers have appropriated part of their territory. The three leaders and human rights defenders Antonio Jean, Valdivino Lopes and Reginaldo da Conceição have already suffered threats in the past and Antonio and Reginaldo are formally included in the federal government's Protection Program of Human Rights Defenders, Environmentalists and Journalists (PPDDH - Programa de Proteção a Defensores de Direitos Humanos, Ambientalistas e Jornalistas’), in partnership with the state government of Maranhão. Valdivino Lopes has no protection measures from the Brazilian state.


The Coordenação Nacional de Articulação das Comunidades Negras Rurais Quilomboas (National Coalition of Black Rural Quilombola Communities) - CONAQ, has expressed concern in regards to the violence against quilombola leaders in Maranhão. CONAQ highlights that Maranhão is one of the states with the highest murders rates of quilombola defenders in the country, with 12 leaders killed in the last 4 years. According to the Quilombola Movement of Maranhão (MOQUIBOM), "attacks like this, as well as threats and murders against the quilombola population of Maranhão, have been constant in recent decades, and worry families and the human rights defenders protecting the territories".


One of the factors exacerbating the situation in the region is the lack of official recognition of quilombola territories by the state. Only six of the 419 quilombola communities in Maranhão have their title of collective quilombola territory recognized. The lack of legal support and concrete public policies for quilombola populations has allowed offensive attacks by cattle and monoculture farmers. Such farmers appropriate land in the quilombola territories and rely on private security groups that in many instances intimidate communities and threaten quilombola leaders.


Front Line Defenders condemns the attacks suffered by quilombola human rights defender Antonio Alves, as well as the death threats made against quilombola leaders and human rights defenders Antonio Jean, Valdivino Lopes and Reginaldo da Conceição. Front Line Defenders expresses deep concern regarding the increase in attacks against quilombola rights defenders in Brazil, as well as the killing of human rights defenders, in particular against those who defend their territories and communities in states such as Maranhão. The organization highlights that those defending quilombola rights are regularly subjected to attacks and do not receive adequate protection from national authorities, despite several requests and reports of threats.


Front Line Defenders urges the Brazilian authorities to:

  1. Immediately adopt protection measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of human rights defenders Antonio Alves, Antonio Jean, Valdivino Lopes and Reginaldo da Conceição;

  2. Guarantee of medical treatment necessary for the recovery of the health of human rights defender Antonio Alves, victim of a physical attack;

  3. Initiate an immediate, exhaustive and impartial investigation into the attack and threats against human rights defender Antonio Alves and the death threats made against community leaders Antonio Jean, Valdivino Lopes and Reginaldo da Conceição, in order to effectively identify the perpetrators responsible and bring them to justice;

  4. Initate an investigation into the threats and attacks against human rights defenders and communities and the involvement of private security forces acting on behalf of farmers and agribusiness representatives;

  5. Front Line Defenders also calls on the authorities to improve speed and effectiveness in assisting human rights defenders at risk included in the Programa de Proteção a Defensoras e Defensoras de Direitos Humanos, Ambientalistas e Jornalistas (PPDDH);

  6. Implement measures to reduce and mediate the risks that quilombola leaders face throughout the country, notably in the state of Maranhão.





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