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21 December 2020

WHRD Jane Beatriz da Silva Nunes killed in Brazil

Front Line Defenders condemns the killing of woman human rights defender Jane Beatriz da Silva Nunes who died during a policing operation by the Military Brigade in Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul.

Jane Beatriz da Silva Nunes was a well respected woman human rights defender and member of the Black rights movement and feminist movement in Grade Cruzeiro. Having lived in Grande Cruzeiro for more than forty years, Jane Beatriz da Silva Nunes was involved in many local projects, including the foundation of the Association União das Vilas, a congregation of 36 communities in Grande Cruzeiro, in the south zone of the capital of Rio Grande do Sul. She also contributed to the founding of several NGOs to support women, including Maria Mulher Association of Women in Solidarity of Vila Cruzeiro (Assmusol), and to the successful execution of the Food Acquisition Program (PAA) in the community.

On 8 December 2020 police officers broke into Jane Beatriz da Silva Nunes’s home in Grande Cruzeiro without a warrant. The woman human rights defender confronted the officers, asserting her rights to dignity, privacy and inviolability of her home. The circumstances of her death are still to be clarified and different versions of what happened have been made public. On 11 December 2020, Themis - Gender Justice and Human Rights, a civil society organisation based in Porto Alegre that combats injustice and discrimination faced by women in the justice system, called for a full and impartial investigation into the incident.

According to reports by residents and local organizations, home invasions without warrants are a standard and regular practice exercised by the Military Brigade in Grande Cruzerio, designed to intimidate the local community and human rights defenders. Jane Beatriz da Silva Nunes’s death is not an isolated case, but unfortunately another example of the discriminatory targeting of the Black population in Brazil. In 2020 alone, in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, at least 90 deaths were caused by police brutality. In such a context, being a Black woman human rights defender who is prominent and visible in the community in itself presents a serious risk. According to the Fórum Brasileiro de Segurança Pública (Brazilian Public Security Forum), 75% of the people killed in Brazil in 2019 were Black and between 2007 and 2017, the murder of Black women increased by 29.9%.

Racial profiling followed by acts of violence by police is an ongoing issue in Brazil which critically impacts on the ability of Black human rights defenders to work safely.  In 2020, the ’Movement of Favelas’ in Rio de Janeiro, in partnership with the Public Defender of the State of Rio de Janeiro and a number of civil society organisations1, brought a case relating to this violence to the Supreme Federal Court (STF). It called for ‘judicial action of constitutional control’, popularly known as “ADPF of the Favelas", to recognise and remedy the serious violations of public security policy by the state of Rio de Janeiro on the Black and poor populations in the favelas and poor neighbourhoods during police operations. The ‘Movement of Favelas’ obtained the suspension of police activities in favelas and poor neighbourhoods in the state of Rio de Janeiro during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. Although this decision by the Supreme Court marked a victory for civil society,  the ADPF legal measures  still need to be effectively implemented; the government of Rio de Janeiro has failed to comply with them on several occasions. In the absence of such implementation, given the nature of their work, human rights defenders remain at serious risk of police brutality; their prominence and visibility in neighbourhoods means that they are likely to  to bear the brunt of this widespread violence.

Front Line Defenders condemns the violence used by police in Brazil and the disparate impact this racial profiling and discriminatory policing has on members of the Black movement, feminist movement and human rights defenders in Brazil. Front Line Defenders further condemns the killing of woman human rights defender Jane Beatriz da Silva Nunes, as it believes her work as a woman human rights defender and her subsequent death was a result of the indiscriminate violence that not only the Black population in Brazil, but also women human rights defenders, are confronted with on a daily basis. It calls on the authorities in Brazil to carry out a full and impartial investigation into the cause and circumstances of Jane Beatriz da Silva Nunes’s death. Front Line Defenders urges the authorities to guarantee that all human rights defenders in Brazil are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.