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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Mandakini

Coordinator - Tibet Team

Mandakini graduated with honours from the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights. Her team analyses the human rights violations faced by Tibetans through a legal lens.

Kenza Mena
Team Coordinator -China

Kenza Mena has expertise in international criminal law since she is currently pursuing a last-year Master’s degree in International Criminal Justice at Paris II Panthéon-Assas and obtained with honors cum laude an LLM in International and Transnational Criminal Law from the University of Amsterdam. She also holds a Bachelor’s degree in French and Anglo-American law. 

Since September 2021, she has been the coordinator of Team China at GHRD, a country where violations of human rights, even international crimes, are frequently perpetrated by representatives of the State. Within Team China, awareness is also raised on discrimination that Chinese women and minorities in the country and, more generally, Chinese people around the world are facing.

Kenza believes that the primary key step to tackle atrocities perpetrated around the world is advocacy and promotion of human rights.

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.

Lukas Mitidieri
Coordinator & Head Researcher- Bangladesh

Lucas Mitidieri is currently pursuing his bachelor’s degree in International Relations at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). As the GHRD Bangladesh Team Coordinator, he advocates for human rights and monitors violations across all minorities and marginalized groups in Bangladesh. Lucas believes that the fight for International Human Rights is the key to a world with better social justice and greater equality.

Nicole Hutchinson
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.

Gabriela Johannen
Coordinator & Head Researcher – India

Gabriela Johannen is a lawyer admitted to the German bar and holds extensive knowledge in the fields of human rights, refugee law, and international law. After working for various courts and law firms in her home country, she decided to obtain an LL.M. degree from Utrecht University where she studied Public International Law with a special focus on Human Rights. Additionally, while working as a pro-bono legal advisor for refugees, she expanded her knowledge in the fields of refugee law and migration.

Gabriela is the coordinator and head researcher for GHRD India, a country, she has had a personal connection with since childhood. Her primary focus is to raise awareness for the severe human rights violations against minorities and marginalized groups that continue to occur on a daily basis in India. By emphasizing the happenings and educating the general public, she hopes to create a better world for future generations.

João Victor
Coordinator & Head Researcher – International Justice

João Victor is a young Brazilian lawyer who leads our team of International Justice and Human Rights. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Law from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and possesses over 5 years of experience in dealing with Human Rights and International Law issues both in Brazil and internationally, including the protection of refugees’ rights and the strengthening of accountability measures against torture crimes.

João has an extensive research engagement with subjects related to International Justice in general, and more specifically with the study of the jurisprudence of Human Rights Courts regarding the rise of populist and anti-terrorist measures taken by national governments. He is also interested in the different impacts that new technologies may provoke on the maintenance of Human Rights online, and how enforcing the due diligence rules among private technology companies might secure these rights against gross Human Rights violations.

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.

Angela Roncetti
Team Coordinator and Head Researcher- South America

Angela holds a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) from Vitória Law School (FDV) in Brazil. Her research combines more than five years of experience conducting debates and studies on the rights of homeless people, the elderly, children, and refugees. Besides that, she also volunteers in a social project called Sou Diferente (I am Different in English), where she coordinates and takes part in actions aimed at the assistance and the emancipation of vulnerable groups in the cities of the metropolitan area of Espírito Santo state (Brazil).

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.

Pedro Ivo Oliveira
Team Coordinator and Researcher
(Africa)

Pedro holds an extensive background in Human Rights, especially in Global Health, LGBTQ+ issues, and HIV and AIDS. He is currently finishing his Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations and Affairs at the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais, Brazil. Moreover, he successfully attended the Bilingual Summer School in Human Rights Education promoted by the Federal University of Minas Gerais and the Association of Universities of the Montevideo Group. Besides, Pedro Ivo has a diversified professional background, collecting experiences in many NGOs and projects.

With outstanding leadership abilities, in 2021, Pedro Ivo was the Secretary-General of the 22nd edition of the biggest UN Model in Latin America: the MINIONU. Fluent in Portuguese, English, and Spanish, Pedro Ivo is the Team Coordinator and Head Researcher of the Team Africa at Global Human Rights Defence. Hence, his focus is to empower his team from many parts of the world about the Human Rights Situation in the African continent, meanwhile having a humanized approach.

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

Veronica Delgado
Team Coordinator and Researcher- Japan, Sri Lanka & Tibet

Veronica is a Colombian lawyer who leads our team of Japan, Sri Lanka and Tibet. She holds a master’s degree in Public International Law from Utrecht University. She has experience in Colombian law firms. Here she represented clients before constitutional courts. She also outlined legal concepts to state entities such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ombudsman’s Office on international law issues.

Veronica has an extensive research background with subjects related to public international law. She worked as an assistant researcher for more than two years for the Externado University of Colombia. Here she undertook in-depth research on constitutional, business, and human rights law issues. She was involved with consultancy services with the Colombian Army regarding transitional justice. 

Wiktoria Walczyk
Coordinator & Head Researcher (Nepal & Indonesia)

Wiktoria Walczyk has joined GHRD in June 2020 as a legal intern. She is currently coordinator and head researcher of Team Nepal and Indonesia. She has an extensive legal knowledge concerning international human rights and is passionate about children’s and minorities’ rights. Wiktoria has obtained her LL.B. in International & European Law and she specialised in Public International Law & Human Rights at The Hague University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands. Moreover, she is pursuing her LL.M. in International & European Law and focusing on Modern Human Rights Law specialisation at the University of Wroclaw in Poland. In order to gain an essential legal experience, Wiktoria has also joined Credit Suisse’s 2021 General Counsel Graduate First Program where she is conducting her legal training and discovering the banking world. She would like to make a significant impact when it comes to the protection of fundamental human rights around the world, especially with regard to child labour. 

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.

Jasmann Chatwal
Team Coordinator & Head Coordinator: North America

Jasmann is a political science student at Leiden University who joined GHRD in May 2021 as an intern in team Pakistan. Now, she is the team coordinator for North America and is responsible for coordinating the documentation of human rights violations in USA, Canada, and America.