Brazil: More than 1,000 families face immediate threat of forced eviction

Over 1,000 families in the southern and south-eastern regions of Brazil’s Pará state are facing imminent forced eviction following a court order obtained by state authorities.

The state court ordered that the families be forcibly removed by a special force within the state military police (Comando de Missões Especiais, Special Missions Command), consisting of more than 200 officers.

Pará state has a long history of land-related violence, and Amnesty International fears that the families are in grave danger.

About 4,000 families, totalling approximately 15,000 people, are affected by the court order. Some of them have already been evicted from land on 17 ranches, which had largely been deemed "unproductive" by the federal body which oversees land reform.

The majority of the families have been living on the land for more than three years. If the families are evicted from the land, they risk being made homeless, without access to adequate food and clean water, and exposed to the weather conditions. The families are at risk of being deprived of earning a living, without compensation.

Eviction under these circumstances would violate the right to an adequate standard of living, including rights to adequate housing, food and water as guaranteed under international law.

Amnesty International members are urgently writing to the Brazilian state authorities for the protection, safety, and the guarantee that the authorities can provide an adequate standard of living for all of the evicted families.

Amnesty International has documented high levels of land-related and police violence in Pará state, including the Eldorado dos Carajás massacre in 1996, during which 19 land activists were killed by the military police.

Background Information

Amnesty International has also received reports suggesting that eviction warrants were issued by the court even though procedures for appropriation of land for the purposes of agrarian reform, set out in federal law, had not been followed. According to the Instituto Nacional de Colonização e Reforma Agrária (INCRA), National Institute for Colonization and Agrarian Reform, the official body responsible for land reform, 15 of the 17 occupied ranches were deemed "unproductive" and were therefore suitable for appropriation by the state in order for the occupying families to be settled there. Six of the ranches are reported to be illegally situated on federal land while a further five of the ranches were found to be using slave labour.

Amnesty International regularly receives reports concerning the slow pace of land reforms in Brazil, which increasingly puts landless families at risk of violence, and of social deprivation resulting from eviction. The process for appropriating land has reportedly been fraught with problems, but should include: an assessment by INCRA of the claims of non-productivity of a section of occupied land; when this is established, the valuation of the land; finally the reimbursement of the landowner prior to its being handed over in plots to those occupying the land.

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