Global Human Rights Defence

Amazon- Brazil

Brazil is one of the nine countries that share the Amazon rainforest. The Amazon region occupies roughly 60% of the Brazilian territory, shared among the states of Acre, Amapá, Amazonas, Mato Grosso, Rondônia, Roraima, Tocantins, Pará e do Maranhão.  As of 2020, the total population is 28,1 million inhabitants or 13,3% of the Brazilian population.

According to the 2010 Brazilian Demographic Census, 0,4% of the population declares to be indigenous, which equals 817.000 people. It is noted that 37,4% of this indigenous population lives in the North Region and/or the Amazonian Environment. The state of Amazonas is the only state to possess more than 100.000 self-declared indigenous inhabitants, and the state of Roraima has the highest percentage of indigenous persons among the population (11%).  It must be noted, however, that Indigenous communities are present in each of the country’s five geographical regions.

Indigenous communities have long suffered gross Human Rights violations in Brazil, dating back to the beginning of the colonial period when a significant number of Indigenous people were enslaved in raids. Contemporarily, despite numerous protections awarded by the Brazilian Constitution, domestic laws and international treaties, Indigenous communities continue to suffer from violations and discrimination. The Brazilian National Indian Foundation (FUNAI) points out that Indigenous peoples currently suffer from "territorial and environmental invasions and degradation, sexual exploitation, drug abuse, labour exploitation, including children, mendicancy and disorderly exodus".

Resource Extraction

The Brazilian Constitution forbids artisanal mining (“graimpo”) by non-Indigenous persons within Indigenous lands. This activity may be exclusively undertaken by Indigenous persons, according to Law 6001/1973 (The “Indian Statute”). On the other hand, formal mining may be carried out under the authorization of the National Congress, given that the affected communities are compensated.

Nonetheless, Indigenous Communities have been long affected by illegal mining on their lands. In the 1960s, communities of the “Cinta-Larga” Indigenous people were massacred to allow the advancement of miners into their territory. Recently, the Yanomami territory, the largest demarcated Indigenous land in Brazil, has been suffering from conflicts involving artisanal miners – according to estimations, the disputed land amounts to an area larger than the State of Belgium. Since June 2020, these conflicts between Indigenous communities from the Yanomani territory and heavily armed miners have escalated, leaving many Indigenous persons dead. The Brazilian Army and the Federal Police have been deployed to the region. 

A report, published by the Hutukara Yanomami Association and the Wanasseduume Ye’kwana Association, with support from the Socioenvironmental Institute (Instituto Socioambiental – ISA), informs a 30% growth in illegal mining within the Yanomani Territory in 2020 alone. The publishers fear incidents similar to the 1993 Haximu Massacre, which resulted in the first [and only] conviction of genocide in Brazilian Courts. The report also describes the proliferation of infectious diseases, such as malaria and COVID-19.

The current Brazilian federal administration supports mining in indigenous lands. The President has proposed draft legislation (PL 191/2020) to regulate mining and energy exploitation within Indigenous lands, in accordance with its campaign promises. The opposition has strongly condemned the proposed bill. It is of uttermost importance that the Brazilian National Congress rejects the proposed bill, respecting the rights of the affected communities.

Land Disputes

In connection with illegal mining, but not restricted to it, claims for recognition of ownership of traditional lands have been under attack. In a landmark case (Extraordinary Appeal 1017365), which will serve as a guideline for future cases, the Supreme Court is analysing if there is a time-frame for Indigenous communities to claim their traditional lands. It is estimated that 310 land-demarcation proceedings may be affected. 

When the Portuguese first arrived in Brazil in 1500, the land was already inhabited by Indigenous pre-columbian populations. During the vast majority of the country’s history, since it was a colony until after the independence from Portugal, Indigenous peoples have been dispossessed of their lands by settlers. Despite the legal protection awarded by the Brazilian Constitution, the American Convention on Human Rights and the International Labour Organisation Convention 169, communities from all parts of the country have long (and not always successfully) fought for the enjoyment of their land rights. 

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has already held the State of Brazil liable for delays in demarcation proceedings. In the Case of the Xucuru Indigenous People and its members v. Brazil, the Court ruled that the country breached its international Human Rights obligations (specifically the rights to judicial protection and to collective property) due to almost two decades of administrative proceedings for the demarcation of the Xucuru land.

For this reason, it is imperative that the Brazilian State, including the Supreme Court in the case mentioned above, guarantees the enjoyment of land property rights.

Deforestation

The recent rate of deforestation in the Amazon region is alarming. According to satellite data from the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research, between August 2019 and July 2020, the Brazilian Amazon Region lost  10.851 km2 of rainforest, which means a 7,13% increase in comparison with 2019.

A recently published report by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) demonstrates that “the forests in the indigenous and tribal territories have been much better conserved than other forests in Latin America and the Caribbean, and their low carbon emissions reflect that.” Nonetheless, deforestation in indigenous lands has sharply risen: in the biennium 2019-20, deforestation in indigenous lands grew  48,31% in comparison with the 2017-18 period, which has been attributed to policies adopted by the Ministry of Environment.

Government Policies

The current Brazilian Federal Administration has been openly hostile towards Indigenous Peoples’ rights, especially regarding land demarcations, in accordance with one of President Bolsonaro’s campaign promises – not to demarcate a single centimeter of Indigenous lands/territories. Supported by large landowners, the President has effectively interfered in State entities responsible for Indigenous Peoples’ rights, such as FUNAI, while supporting the expansion of agribusiness and mining into their lands.

The Federal Government’s policies have prompted Indigenous associations to submit to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court a request for an investigation of President Bolsonaro for Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity. It must be pointed out that the former Minister of Environment (for most of the current administration, until June 2021) is under investigation by the Brazilian Federal Police for alleged exports of illegal timber to the United States. 

Nevertheless raising awareness and attention for the indigenous people and the Amazon is of utmost importance. GHRD- Amazon tries to achieve these goals through writing reports, articles and making documentaries. But also by launching fundraising projects and lobbying events.

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Aimilina Sarafi
Pakistan Coordinator

Aimilina Sarafi holds a Bachelor’s degree cum laude in International Relations and Organisations from Leiden University and is currently pursuing a Double Legal Master’s degree (LLM) in Public International Law and International Criminal Law at the University of Amsterdam.
She is an active advocate for the human rights of all peoples in her community and is passionate about creating a better world for future generations. Aimilina is the coordinator for the GHRD team of Pakistan, in which human rights violations of minority communities in Pakistan are investigated and legally evaluated based on international human rights legal standards.
Her team is working on raising awareness on the plight of minority communities such as women, children, religious and ethnic minorities within Pakistan.

Marguerite Remy
Coordinator Middle East and a Legal Researcher.

Marguerite is the coordinator of the team of legal researchers focusing on the Middle East and a legal researcher herself.

She developed her expertise in international human rights law, international criminal law and humanitarian law during her double bachelor in law and political science at Sorbonne-Paris 1 University and her LLM in public international law at Leiden University. Particularly interested in the Middle East for years, Marguerite has acquired a good knowledge of the region and its human rights issues through various field experience, including internships in a cultural service of the French embassy and in a local NGO, as well as a semester in a university in the region. Currently, her main interests are accountability mechanisms for crimes committed during recent armed conflicts, notably in Syria, the Israeli-Palestinian situation and the Palestinian case at the ICC, and transitional justice issues.

Nicole
Editorial Team Lead

Nicole has an MSc in International Development Studies with a focus on migration. She is passionate about promoting human rights and fighting poverty through advocacy and empowering human choice. Nicole believes that even the simplest social justice efforts, when properly nurtured, can bring about radical and positive change worldwide.

Mattia Ruben Castiello
Media quality coordinator

Mattia is currently in charge of quality checking and improving all the social media and website handles of the Global Human Rights Defence.
With a bachelor in Psychology from Spain and a master in Cultural Anthropology from the Netherlands, Mattia’s passion now lies in Human Rights in regard to the refugee and migrant crisis. Having lived his whole life in East-Arica, Mattia has had the opportunity to work with a vast amount of non-government organisations and health institutions. This has provided him with knowledge in diverse cultural understandings as well as interest in concerning global issues.

Jeremy Samuël van den Enden
Coordinator Bangladesh & Communication Officer
Mr. Van den Enden has a MSc in International Relations and specializes in inequality, racial dynamics and security within international diplomacy and policymaking. He studies the contemporary as well as modern historical intricacies of human rights in the global political arena. Furthermore, Mr. Van den Enden assists GHRD in revitalizing its internal and external communication.
Célinne Bodinger
Environment and Human Rights Coordinator

As the Environment and Human Rights Coordinator, Célinne is passionate about the health of our planet and every life on it.

Prerna Tara
Human Rights Coordinator

Prerna Tara graduated from Leiden Law School with an LLM in Public International Law. She practiced in the India before starting her Masters. She has assisted in pro- bono cases and interned at some of the best legal firms in India which has brought her face to face with the legal complexities in areas of corporate law, white collar crimes etc. Her work at GHRD deals with human rights research spanning throughout the globe.

Lina Borchardt
Team Head (Promotions)
(Europe)

She is currently heading the Promotions Team and University Chapter of Global Human Rights Defence. Her background is the one of European and International Law, which I am studying in The Hague. She has previously gained experience at Women´s Rights organizations in Germany, the Netherlands and Turkey over the past years.
She has been working for Global Human Rights Defence in the Netherlands since 2020. Her focus now is concentrated on the Human Rights and Minorities Film Festival and the cooperation of GHRD with students across the country.

Bianca Fyvie
Coordinator and Head Researcher
(Africa)

Bianca has widespread knowledge about social problems and human rights issues, with a specific focus on social justice in Africa and the empowerment of communities and individuals. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Stellenbosch University as well as a Master’s degree in Social Work and Human Rights from Gothenburg University. She has participated in courses on Women’s Leadership at Stellenbosch University, and has worked with organizations such as AIESEC towards furthering the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. She also has experience in working directly with marginalized and vulnerable groups in South Africa while qualifying as a Social Worker.
Bianca is the coordinator for a group of interns doing research and reporting on Human Rights topics in a range of African countries. Her focus is on ensuring that these countries are monitored and have up to date reports and research conducted in order to allow relevant and updated information to be produced.

Alessandro Cosmo
GHRD Youth Ambassador
(European Union)

Alessandro Cosmo obtained his B.A. with Honors from Leiden University College where he studied International Law with a minor in Social and Business Entrepreneurship. He is currently pursuing an LL.M. in Public International Law at Utrecht University with a specialization in Conflict and Security. 
As GHRD’s E.U. Youth Ambassador, Alessandro’s two main focuses are to broaden the Defence’s reach within E.U. institutions and political parties, as well as mediate relations between human rights organizations abroad seeking European funding. 
Alessandro believes that human rights advocacy requires grass-roots initiatives where victims’ voices are amplified and not paraphrased or spoken for. He will therefore act on this agenda when representing Global Human Rights Defence domestically and abroad

Hiba Zene
Coordinator and Head Researcher
(Africa)

Hiba Zene holds a Bachelor’s degree in International and European Law from The Hague University and, has significant legal knowledge in the field of international human rights law. She actively advocates for the protection of all human rights of vulnerable minorities and marginalised groups. Focusing, specifically on the human rights of children and women in Africa.
Hiba is the coordinator and head researcher for GHRD Africa. As a human rights defender for GHRD she has examined and investigated various human rights abuses, violations and issues in Africa. She has led research missions addressing issues on Statelessness in Kenya, Child Abuse in Uganda, and Teen Pregnancy in Kenya.

Thaís Ferreira de Souza
Coordinator and Head Researcher (International Justice and Human Rights)

Senior Paralegal at PGMBM (Amsterdam office), working to bring justice for victims of wrongdoing by big corporations, with a focus on human rights and environmental law.
Previously, Thaís worked as a Visiting Professional at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague, providing legal advice on international human rights law and international criminal law. She also worked at the State Court of Justice of the Rondônia State (TJRO) in Brazil from 2013 to 2017, initially as a legal clerk and posteriorly as a legal advisor to judges. In 2016 she served as the regional representative of the Brazilian Institute of Criminal Procedural Law (IBRASPP) in the State of Rondônia, Brazil and during her bachelor’s degree, she worked as a Research Assistant at the Research Group ‘Ethics and Human Rights’ of the Federal University of Rondônia for over three years.

Fairuz Sewbaks
Coordinator and Head Researcher
(Africa)​

Fairuz Sewbaks holds extensive legal knowledge regarding international human rights, with a specific focus on human rights dealings taking place in continental Africa. She holds a bachelor’s degree from The Hague University in public international law and international human rights and successfully followed advanced human rights courses at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria. She furthermore participated in the Istanbul Summer School where she was educated about the role of epidemics and pandemics in light of human rights.

 

Fairuz is the coordinator and head researcher for GHRD Africa. Her primary focus is to establish and coordinate long-term research projects regarding the differentiating human rights dealings of vulnerable and marginalized groups in continental Africa, as well as conducting individual research projects.

Priya Lachmansingh
Coordinator and Head Researcher, Political Advisor
(Asia & America)

Priya Lachmansingh is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in International & European
Law at the Hague University of Applied Science.
As GHRD’s Asia & America human rights coordinator and GHRD Political Advisor, Priya’s
prominent focus is to highlight human rights violations targeted against minority and
marginalized groups in Asia and America and to broaden GHRD reach within Dutch political
parties and as well seek domestic funding.

Fabian Escobar
Coordinator and Head Researcher
(Europe)

My name is Fabian Escobar, L.L.B. International and European Law candidate to The Hague University. I was born in Honduras and been living in The Netherlands, more specifically Amsterdam the last 8 years. I am passionate about Human Rights, Civil and Political Rights, fighting racism, and empowering women and ethnic minorities. In GHRD I am the coordinator for the Europe Team, I am thankful for being part of this team and that I have been given the opportunity to learn and apply my learning.