BRAZIL: Vale and Belo Monte suspected of spying – the justice system must investigate

Urgent Appeal
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Rio de Janeiro-Paris-Geneva, February 14, 2014. Today, FIDH and OMCT presented the press with evidence that Vale and the Belo Monte Consortium have been spying on civil society. The two human rights groups have called upon the Brazilian judicial authorities to take whatever actions are necessary to bring these facts to light and take punitive action against those responsible.

In light of the Brazilian government’s lukewarm reaction to allegations of illegal espionage by transnational corporations targeting civil society organisations and movements, FIDH and OMCT, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, conducted an investigation in Brazil from February 9 to 14, 2014.

The investigation included interviews with victims, persons working for social organisations, government and judicial representatives, members of Parliament, and executives working for the Belo Monte Consortium, and the National Development Bank (Banco Nacional do Desenvolvimento - BNDES).

The testimony and documents obtained during the investigation appear to substantiate claims that Vale and Belo Monte have been engaged in acts of corruption, that they illegally obtained confidential information and access to databases, made illegal recordings, were involved in identity theft, and conducted unfounded employee dismissals. These offences have been perpetrated with the complicity of State agents. Documents have been unearthed that substantiate both the bribing of State agents and possible assistance provided by the Brazilian Intelligence Agency (Agência Brasileira de Inteligência - ABIN) to Belo Monte, whilst Vale worked with retired ABIN agents. Both companies are found have targeted persons and NGOs believed to be potential barriers to the companies’ activities.

Delegates from the fact-finding mission have criticised the State’s lack of progress in investigating these offences, which were reported to the State Prosecutor in March 2013. The persons heading the mission also called upon President Dilma Roussef to be consistent by applying the same standards to this case as those applied in the Snowden case.

The head of the Observatory mission, Jimena Reyes, Head of FIDH’s Americas Desk, stated that: “[…] the spying activities conducted by multinational corporations on social movements in Brazil raises serious questions about human rights respect by companies. These activities undermine freedom of expression and the right to protest, which form one of the fundamental pillars of a democratic state”.

Alexandre Faro, a lawyer and one of the mission delegates explained that: “[…] the lack of regulations on private intelligence activities conducted by corporations facilitates the perpetration of abuses against civil society”. He went on to state that, “the power held by multi-national corporations calls for a strong legal and judicial system to act as a counterbalance and stop any further excesses of this nature”.

A report on the fact-finding mission will be published in the coming months. It will provide a detailed account of the mission’s findings and recommendations, and will be presented to the Brazilian Government, non-governmental actors, international organisations, diplomatic representations, and to national, regional and international human rights protection entities.

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