Brazil: Death threats against Mr. Davi Kopenawa

Press release


BRA 001 / 0814 / OBS 068
Death threats
August 6, 2014

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Brazil.

Brief description of the information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about death threats against Mr. Davi Kopenawa, shaman and internationally renowned Spokesman for the Yanomami tribe in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest and Chairman of the indigenous rights organisation Yanomami Association Hutukara (Hutukara Associação Yanomami - HAY) [1], following his successful campaign against gold miners, who are now facing eviction from Yanomami territory.

According to the information received, on July 28, 2014, Mr. Davi Kopenawa lodged a formal request to the federal police of Roraima, asking for urgent protection for himself, his son and colleagues after receiving a series of death threats by armed thugs reportedly hired by gold miners operating illegally on Yanomami land. However, Mr. Kopenawa has yet to receive police protection.

In May already, the Director of HAY Mr. Armindo Góes received a message from gold miners that Mr. Davi Kopenawa would « not be alive by the end of the year ». As a precaution, the association decided to restrict the activities and movement of its Chairman.

However, in June 2014, two armed men on motorbikes entered the headquarters of the Socio-Environmental Institute (Instituto Socioambiental - ISA) in Boa Vista, which works closely with the Yanomami, asking for Mr. Davi Kopenawa. The men threatened ISA’s staff with guns and stole computers and other equipment. After the assault, one of the men was arrested and reported that he had been hired by gold miners.

Since then, men on motorbikes have been repeatedly seen prowling around HAY and ISA headquarters and asking for Mr. Davi Kopenawa.

The Observatory is extremely concerned by the above-mentioned death threats against Mr. Davi Kopenawa, which merely aim at sanctioning his human rights activities as a renowned indigenous leader and land rights human rights defender.

The Observatory indeed recalls that Mr. Davi Kopenawa has been at the forefront of the struggle to protect the Amazon rainforest from destruction and in particular Yanomami land for decades. Moreover, it is believed that these threats follow his successful fight for the demarcation of the Yanomami territory, after an invasion of thousands of illegal gold miners in the 1980s decimated the tribe. In February 2014, the Government of Brazil launched in collaboration with HAY a major operation to evict hundreds of illegal gold miners and to destroy mining infrastructure from Yanomami land.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities in Brazil, urging them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Davi Kopenawa as well as of all HAY members and human rights defenders in Brazil;

ii. Carry out an immediate, thorough, impartial and transparent investigation into the above-mentioned events in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before an independent tribunal, and sanction them as provided by the law;

iii. Put an end to any act of harassment against Mr. Davi Kopenawa and all human rights defenders in Brazil, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance or fear of reprisals or intimidation;

iv. Conform to the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially:
- Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, 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 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures 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”.

v. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Brazil.


· H.E. Ms. Dilma Rousseff, President of the Federative Republic of Brazil, Palácio do Planalto, Praça dos Três Poderes, 70150-900, Brasilia DF, Brazil.
· Ms. Ideli Salvatti, Secretary for Human Rights, Secretariat for Human Rights of the Presidency of the Republic, Setor Comercial Sul - B, Quadra 9, Lote C, Edificio Parque Cidade Corporate, Torre A, 10º andar, Brasília, Distrito Federal, Brasil - CEP: 70308-200. Email :; Twitter : @DHumanosBrasil
· Ms. Izabella Mônica Vieira Teixeira, State Minister of the Environment, Ministry of the Environment, Esplanada dos Ministérios - Bloco B, CEP 70068-900 - Brasília/DF, Brazil. FAX: 2028-1756. Email : Twitter : @mmeioambiente
· 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, Louizalaan 350, 1050 Brussels, Belgium. Fax : +32 2 640 81 34, Email:

Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of Brazil in your respective country.

Read more