Last year, I was glued to my laptop at home in NY watching some unbelievable images from my native Brazil: millions (yes, millions) of people protesting in the streets, taking over Congress while singing the national anthem and demanding answers from their elected leaders. The videos were fast-coming and exhilarating. “World Cup for Whom?” protesters chanted, questioning the sanity of investing millions in major sporting events amidst ailing hospitals, under-resourced schools, crumbling roads. It seemed like the absurdity of it all had finally caught on.
[pullquote]A livestream of today’s IACHR hearing on police violence in Brazil is available from 11:30am-12:30pm EDT: click here
(click on Ruben Dario room) Follow #Nãoécrime (“it’s not a crime”) on social media to join the conversation.[/pullquote]
The protests were largely peaceful. The response from police was not. Unprepared to deal with such an outburst of, well, democracy, it was a harrowing display: disproportionate force, excessive use of tear gas and rubber bullets (and in some cases even live ammunition), targeting of journalists and video activists, random baseless charges and persecution of activists.
Since the protests began last June, human rights groups have reported over 1,700 arbitrary detentions (some “for examination” which is illegal under Brazilian law), hundreds of arrests (sometimes for alleged “crimes” as silly as carrying bottles of vinegar to protect from tear gas) and at least 23 protest-related deaths across the country. And despite the many pleas for a halt to the violence, Brazilian authorities have been unresponsive to civil society’s demands and unwilling to change their practices.
On the contrary – the government has moved to support efforts to pass stricter legislation curbing protesters and also ramped up its digital surveillance (and persecution) of activists in the lead up to the World Cup, when more protests are expected to happen (to the despair of event sponsors and profiteers).
So Brazilian activists decided to take this issue to the global stage and today, for the first time, the Brazilian government will have to publicly explain its actions and try to answer how it could be perpetrating so many violations while also vying to establish itself as global leader in the human rights arena.
A special thematic hearing will take place this morning at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and a coalition of Brazilian human rights groups will have the opportunity to ask government representatives for answers directly. I’ll be traveling to DC to attend the hearing, as WITNESS has supported a video that compiles footage from the protests and will be screened to the Commissioners. But you can also watch directly on this livestream, from 11:30am-12:30pm EDT: http://www.oas.org/en/iachr/default.asp (click on Ruben Dario room).
Compilation video screened at the IACHR hearing on police violence in Brazil
Our partners will be using the hashtag #Nãoécrime (which translates to “It’s Not a Crime”) on social media to share the conversation with the public.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is an important international body that can help strengthen the call for justice and remind member states of their obligations to uphold and protect their citizens’ rights. After the hearing, the Commission may issue a statement (usually within 2 weeks) with specific recommendations to the Brazilian government as it gears up for more protests in the coming months.
I will be, along with many other Brazilians and concerned citizens around the world, eager to hear what they have to say.
To learn more about the organizations submitting the petitions, follow these links:
United Rede Internacional de Direitos Humanos (URIDH)
Update: The video compilation screened at the hearing on March 28, 2014 has been added to the post.