Brazil: UN expert presents alarming findings following visit, calling for remedy and relocation for Piquiá

Today, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Toxics, Marcos Orellana, presented his report on Brazil before the UN Human Rights Council. His predecessor had undertaken a visit to Brazil, with a focus on Piquiá de Baio (Maranhão), where he witnessed abuses committed by the mining and steel industry. The preliminary report calls for the necessary resources to be made available to resettle the community of Piquiá de Baixo, and urges the government, Vale and other companies involved to issue a formal apology to the community and that remedy should be awarded to rights-holders.

In the report, Special Rapporteur on Toxics Marcos Orellana points out that “throughout Brazil, factories and plants are located in unimaginably close proximity to communities, who are subjected to grave infringements of their human rights.
He also highlights the situation of Piquiá. This case shows how Brazil is increasingly being exploited by global supply chains “capitalising on weaker standards, oversight and enforcement.”

Speaking at the 45th Ordinary Session of the Human Rights Council, at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva, the UN expert stated that "companies implicated in clear human rights abuses, including Vale, should be held accountable for what can only be described as environmental and occupational crimes.” Following the degradation of the human rights situation and proliferation of corporate abuses in Brazil, he issued a strong call to action, recommending that the UN Human Rights Council hold an inquiry into the current human rights situation in Brazil as well as a special session on the protection of the Amazon rainforest and human rights, ensuring the active participation of all stakeholders.

In a report published in 2011, FIDH, Justiça nos Trilhos and Justiça Global denounced the corporate abuses and state negligence towards the community of Piquiá, in the state of Maranhão. The organisations have since repeatedly urged the international community, including the UN Special Rapporteur on Toxics, to put pressure on Brazil and ask for prompt redress. In May 2019, FIDH and Justiça nos Trilhos issued a second report recounting the remarkable struggle led by the community in Piquiá in the face of persistent violations, as well as the risks surrounding the completion of the hard-won community relocation project. This led to a visit by Mr Orellana’s predecessor, Baskut Tuncak, in December 2019.

FIDH welcomes the Special Rapporteur’s report on Brazil, which is yet another reminder of the extent of the corporate abuses and lack of accountability in the country. Tuncak’s and Orellana’s work grants visibility to the community’s struggle for its rights and further corroborates, from within the UN system, the harsh diagnostic found in FIDH’s reports.

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