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Nilce de Souza Magalhães

HRD, Leader
Movement of People Affected by Dams (Movimento dos Atingidos por Barragens - MAB)

Nilce de Souza Magalhães was one of the leaders of the Movement of People Affected by Dams (Movimento dos Atingidos por Barragens - MAB), a social movement founded in the 1970s that sought to advocate for the rights of people affected by the construction of dams. Nilce de Souza Magalhães was active in denouncing human rights violations perpetrated by the consortium Sustainable Energy of Brazil (Energia Sustentável do Brasil - ESBR) in the construction of the Usina Hidrelétrica (UHE) in Jirau, Porto Velho. The UHE project forcefully displaced Nilce and her community to a site with no electricity or running water, in addition to compromising their subsistence as fishermen. The human rights defender was very vocal about the grave impacts of the UHE project on fishermen in the Madeira river. In addition to participating in several demonstrations and public hearings, Nilce submitted several complaints that initiated civil and criminal proceedings against UHE. Two ongoing civil inquiries are being conducted by the State and Federal Public Prosecutors' Office into the consortium's Support Programme to Fishing Activities and a criminal inquiry is looking into ESBR's manipulation of monitoring data.

On 21 June 2016, the body of Nilce de Souza Magalhães was found by the UHE dam by the project's workers. Her hands and feet were tied with ropes and her body was attached to heavy rocks. On 15 January 2016, Edione Pessoa da Silva confessed to her murder, but two months ago he escaped from the "Edvan Mariano Rosendo" prison. The human rights defender had initially gone missing on 7 January 2016.


The challenges and threats faced by human rights defenders in Brazil remain very high, particularly for those working on issues of land, environment, indigenous peoples, LGBTi rights, corruption and impunity. Many HRDs have experienced death threats, physical attacks, arbitrary arrests and lawsuits. The high number of killings is of particular concern and takes place against a background of widespread impunity.