Brazil: Arrest and trial of Cacique Babau and his brother Teity Tupinambá

Urgent Appeal
en es

BRA 001 / 0416 / OBS 033
Arrest / Criminalisation
14 April 2016

The Observatory is gravely concerned over information from Justica Global and the Conselho Indigenista Missionário (CIMI) concerning the arrest and trial of Mr Rosivaldo Ferreira da Silva (also known as Cacique Babau) indigenous leader of the Tupinambá village of Serra do Pradeiro, situated in the municipality of Buerarema, Bahía, and that of his brother José Aelson Jesus da Silva (also known as Teity Tupinambá). Both are human rights defenders for the Tupinambá indigenous peoples.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), asks you to take URGENT action in the light of the situation in Brazil.

Description of the situation:
According to the information received, on the morning of 7 April, Cacique Babau and Teity Tupinambá were arrested in the city of Olivenza by the Bahía Military Police (PM). Shortly before their arrest, they had visited the village of Aldeia de Gravatá to check the situation of its Tupinambá community, who are fighting with the building supply company Areal Bela Vista for respect for their right to remain on their ancestral lands. On 12 January 2016, the federal judge of Ilhéus, Lincoln Pinheiro da Costa, had issued a court order for the “restitution” of Aldeia Gravatá to Areal Bela Vista. Aldeia Gravatá is located on indigenous lands. This ruling was based on the failure of the Tupinambá to accept an agreement which - contrary to all the indigenous legal frameworks - obliges them to allow sand mining on their traditional lands. It should be noted that sand mining causes serious environmental damage.

Cacique Babau complained that, after stressing to the police that the rights of the community must be respected, he left the community and 10 kilometres later was arrested with his brother for the alleged “illegal carrying of firearms” (which turned out to be a pistol exclusively for police use and a 38 calibre revolver). The human rights defenders deny that they were in possession of firearms, and deny the accusation that they threw stones at police vehicles which, on the orders of the judge, were escorting trucks taking sand out of the indigenous territory.

According to information received, Cacique Babau and Teity Tupinambá were transferred to Ariston Cardoso prison in Ilheus on 8 April.

Cacique Babau and Teity Tupinambá were not brought before Judge Lincoln Pinheiro da Costa until 11 April, four days after their arrest, who released them from the prison and instead placed them under house arrest. Although they will be able to return to their home in Serra do Padeiro, they must inform the judge each time they leave the village. They must also appear in court to face charges of “illegal possession of firearms”, “bodily harm to a worker”, “threats of assault against workers and the police”, “resisting arrest”, and, lastly, “contempt of authority”. The defenders deny these accusations.

Whilst the Observatory acknowledges the fact that pre-trial custody has been replaced by house arrest, it is clear that this measure limits the human rights defence work of Cacique Babau and the indigenous community who are struggling for the right to live on their ancestral lands.
The Observatory expresses its deep concern and rejects the persecution and criminalisation of Cacique Babau [1] and his family, which appear to be based on his leadership and defence of the rights of indigenous people and their ancestral land claims.

The Observatory urges the Brazilian authorities to immediately and unconditionally drop the charges against them, and to put an end to all types of harassment, including those at a judicial level, of Cacique Babau, Teity Tupinambá, and all human rights defenders in Brazil.

Cacique Babau leads the indigenous resistance movement, which involves 10,000 indigenous Tupinambá who live in nearly 30 villages in the south of the state of Bahia. They defend their habitat against both mining companies and large tourism projects, which destroy local flora and water sources.

The Tupinambá people have been demanding demarcation of their ancestral lands since 2000. As a result, they have been victims of a serious practice of criminalisation, defamation, threats, and torture that involves the State, farmers, and land owners. Cacique Babau’s siblings and the rest of the population have also been victims of attacks. For example, on 27 May 2009, Cacique Babau’s brother was remanded in custody for carrying provisions in a vehicle belonging to the National Health Foundation (Funasa). In the same year, five indigenous people from the community, including a woman, were unlawfully arrested and tortured with electric shocks by the federal police. In 2010, Cacique Babau’s sister, Gliceria Jesús da Silva, was arrested at Ilhéus airport when she disembarked from a flight from Brasilia, where she had presented a document containing her people’s demands addressed to the then Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Gliceria Jesús da Silva was arrested on charges of “extortion” and “unlawful association” (formation of gangs).

For his part, Cacique Babau has been subjected to unlawful arrests and threats, and has been accused of various crimes between 2008 and 2014 while he attempts to demarcate his lands and those of his people. Since August 2013, the indigenous Tupinambá land has been under military occupation by order of the federal government in order to “guarantee law and order” in the area. The community claims that it is the target of open surveillance.

Requested action:
Please write to the Brazilian authorities, urging them to:

i. Immediately take the most appropriate measures to unconditionally release Cacique Babau and Teity Tupinambá, and to drop the charges against these wrongly criminalised human rights defenders;

ii. Refrain from using the criminal law as an instrument to weaken indigenous communities who claim their rights and who complain about the impact of industrial projects on their lands;

iii. Ensure that there is an end to all types of harassment and violence against Cacique Babau, Teity Tupinambá, members of the Tupinambá community, and all human rights defenders in Brazil;

iv. Ensure the application of the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, in particular as regards to the protection of the right of everyone “individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels” (Article 1), and also as regards to the duty of the State to ensure “the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration” (Article 12(2));

v. In general, to guarantee respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms throughout the country, in accordance with the international human rights provisions ratified by Brazil.

· H.E. Dilma Rousseff, President of Brazil, Palácio do Planalto, Praça dos Três Poderes, 70150-900, Brasilia DF, Brazil.
· Ms Nilma Lino Gomes, Minister for Women, the Promotion of Racial Equality and Human Rights, Setor Comercial Sul - B, Quadra 9, Lote C, Edificio Parque Cidade Corporate, Torre A, 10º andar, Brasília, Distrito Federal, Brazil - CEP: 70308-200. Email:
· Mr Rogerio Sottili, Special Secretary for Human Rights of the Ministry for Women, the Promotion of Racial Equality and Human Rights,, Setor Comercial Sul - B, Quadra 9, Lote C, Edificio Parque Cidade Corporate, Torre A, 10º andar, Brasília, Distrito Federal, Brazil - CEP: 70308-200. Email:;; Twitter: @DHumanosBrasil
· Ms. Izabella Mônica Vieira Teixeira, Minister for the Environment, Esplanada dos Ministérios - Bloco B, CEP 70068-900 - Brasília/DF, Brazil. FAX: 2028-1756. Email: Twitter: @mmeioambiente
· Ms Fernanda Calderaro Da Silva, General Coordinator for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Edifício Sede, 9º andar, (61) 2027-3990,
· Mr Ivan Alex, Adviser to the Governor, Gobierno de Bahia, Terra-Mãe do Brasil, 3ª Avenida, nº 390, Plataforma IV, 1º andar, CAB, CEP41.745-005-Salvador-Bahia,
· Mr Kivio Dias Barbosa Lopes, Head of the Cabinet, Department of Justice, Human Rights and Social Development, , 3ª Avenida, Plataforma 4, nº 390, 1º andar, CAB, CEP41.750-002 - Salvador – Bahia, (71) 3115-6296,,,
· Dr. Leandro Bastos Nunes, Federal Public Prosecutor (MPF), 6ª Camara, Rua Ivonne Silveira, nº 243, Loteamento Centro Executivo – Doron Cep: 41.194-015 / Salvador-BA, (71) 3617-2200,,
· Mr. João Pedro Gonçalves da Costa, President of the National Indigenous Foundation (FUNAI), SBS, Quadra 02, Lote 14, Ed. Cleto Meireles, CEP 70.070-120 – Brasília/DF, Brazil, Email:
· Ms Karina Yoshimura Alvarenga, CNJ – National Council for Justice, (61) 2326-5302, (61) 2326-5307,,
· Judge Lincoln Pinheiro Costa, Federal Court Judge – Ilheus, Bahia, Brazil, Fax: (73) 3634-1097 e 3634-8961, E-mail:
· Dr. Wilton Sobrinho da Silva, Substitute Federal Judge, Fax: (73) 3634-1097 e 3634-1686,
· H.E. Ms. Regina Maria Cordeiro Dunlop, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Brazil to the United Nations in Geneva, Chemin Louis-Dunant 15 (6th Floor), 1202 Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: +41 22 910 07 51, Email:
· H.E. Mr. André Mattoso Maia Amado, Ambassador, Embassy of Brazil in Brussels, Avenue Louise, 350 B-1050, 1050 Brussels, Belgium. Fax: +32 2 640 81 34, Email:
Please also write to the diplomatic representatives of Brazil in your own country.
Geneva-Paris, 14 April 2016
Please inform us about any action taken, including the code for this appeal, in your reply.
The Observatory, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, is dedicated to the protection of human rights defenders who are victims of violations, and to provide them with as much concrete daily assistance as possible.
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