Posted 2014/8/6

Brazil - Threats, attack and raid targeting human rights defender and her family

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On 30 July 2014, the home of the mother of a human rights defender, known as ”Isabel”, was raided by a group of unknown individuals. This raid is believed to be connected with the events of 23 May 2014, when more than 100 civilian police officers raided a building in downtown Niterói in which approximately 400 women were working as prostitutes, including Isabel. During this raid, the officers reportedly committed extortion, theft, robbery and rape against the sex workers.

Isabel is a sex worker who defends the rights of other sex workers in Rio de Janeiro state. On 23 May 2014, Isabel publicly denounced the violent actions of the police against sex workers in Niterói. The police initially refused to register the human rights defender's complaint, even though the Public Defender of Rio de Janeiro and the Order of Lawyers of Brazil (OAB) also publicly repudiated the illegality of actions taken by police. On 26 May 2014, some of the women denouncing the raid were threatened not to continue with their reporting. In spite of this, Isabel gave interviews to the media on 31 May 2014 and, on 4 June 2014, she again denounced these actions at a public hearing convened by the Human Rights Commission of the Legislative Assembly of the State of Rio de Janeiro.

Isabel has reportedly been followed and photographed by individuals who resembled police officers. On 21 June 2014, Isabel was kidnapped by four men who took her in a car, showed her a photograph of her son taken as he was leaving his school, and told her to stop making the complaints. The men threatened to kill Isabel and her son, and they sliced her neck and arm with a knife before releasing her back into the street. On 22 June 2014, she reported this knife attack and the threats, but the officer on duty recorded her case as "circumstanciado" (instead of "police report"), which meant that no inquiry would be launched to investigate what had happened. Isabel suffers from a serious heart condition and has been hospitalised twice as a result of recent stresses and panic attacks.

On 24 June 2014, she received a call from the police saying that they wanted to investigate the kidnapping, attack and threats and write a detailed report on it.

On 1 August 2014, the Programa Nacional de Proteçaõ aos Defensores de Direitos Humanos – PPDDH (National Programme for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders) denied Isabel's request to receive protective measures.

Front Line Defenders is deeply concerned by the threats made against Isabel and the harassment of her family. It is believed that these actions are a direct consequence of Isabel's work to promote and protect the rights of sex workers in Brazil.