Target: Roseana Sarney, Governor of Maranhão State, Brazil
Goal: Secure protection and lodging for over sixty families forcibly and illegally evicted from their homes
Imagine being evicted from your home for no reason. Imagine having your life threatened simply for living where you do. For sixty Brazilian families, these circumstances are far from imaginary. Speak out for the rights of these recently-displaced families, and urge Brazilian authorities to ensure that they are protected, provided for, and eventually safely returned to their homes.
The Campo da Bandeira and Arame communities in Maranhão, Brazil, have been embroiled in bitter land disputes for years. “The land occupied by the two communities has been the subject of an ownership dispute between the state of Maranhão and a private entity,” Amnesty International reports, adding that “the Land Institute of the State of Maranhão has been engaged in a land entitlement process that involves the settlement of claims of communities occupying the land.” Arame’s claim has been completed, and Campo da Bandeira’s is “near completion.”
Prior to the forced evictions, Campo da Bandeira was terrorized by gunmen and saw many of its houses and crops burned. Leaders in both Campo da Bandeira and Arame have received death threats, and families from both communities have been left homeless.
Unfortunately, violent land disputes are nothing new in Brazil; sobering statistics from the Catholic Land Commission, or Commisão Pastoral da Terra (CPT), show that land disputes have motivated over a thousand murders since the 1970s, although the cases are rarely prosecuted. In the past ten years alone, over 1800 activists have received death threats, and in 2012 there were three land dispute-related deaths in Maranhão alone (out of a total of thirty-six dispute-related deaths in Brazil).
This violence and upheaval needs to end. Remind Brazil of its obligations under international law and accordingly demand that the government of Maranhão protect those who have been displaced, provide them with adequate shelter and resources, investigate incidences of violence against their communities, and work to safely restore them to their homes.
Sobering statistics from Commisão Pastoral da Terra (CPT) show that land disputes have influenced over a thousand murders over the last four decades. In the past decade alone, 1800 activists have received death threats. Last year, thirty-six people–including three from Maranhão–were killed in land dispute-related murders. Most recently, sixty families from the communities of Campo da Bandeira and Arame were forcibly evicted from their homes. Some of them have been terrorized by gunman. Some have watched their homes and crops burn. All have experienced a gross violation of their human rights. I urge the government of Maranhão to protect displaced residents of Campo da Bandeira–to shield them from violence, offer them adequate shelter and resources, investigate all threats and violence against them and bring those responsible to justice, and take immediate action toward moving them safely back to their homes and communities.
Brazil has a great responsibility, both morally and legally, to help the communities of Campo da Bandeira and Arame. Under Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Brazil is obligated to protect its citizens from “arbitrary and unlawful interference with privacy, family and home,” Amnesty International reports. Furthermore, Article 11(1) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) “guarantees the right to adequate housing.” So far, Maranhão’s response to the violent forced evictions in Campo da Bandeira and Arame has fallen woefully short of the mark.
I urge you to do the right thing: protect your citizens from further violence, and work with them to achieve justice and a return to their homes, lives, and communities.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons