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RIO RIGHTS RISKS – HRDs & the Olympic Games


Rio de Janeiro: Front Line Defenders Launches Olympics Campaign for HRDs at Risk

In February 2016, Brazilian authorities demolished the home and spiritual centre of an Afro-Brazilian candomblé priestess and human rights defender, to make way for the Olympic Park. As the Games open next week, Heloisa Helena Costa Berto is demanding justice.

Front Line Defenders and five human rights defenders in Rio de Janeiro are launching a campaign calling for an end to threats and attacks against HRDs, which have escalated ahead of the Games.

Raull Santiago, HRD and co-founder of Coletivo Papo Reto, said: “The several forms of violence that we experience always intensify when mega-events are being held in the country. The Olympics promote the idea of harmony: but we are being segregated; the idea of union: but we have riffles pointed at our heads. They promised to improve the city, to create a better environment because of the Games, but the reality is that we are dying”.

In Rio, HRDs have been facing police violence, threats, intimidation and physical attacks. The situation has worsened also at the national level. According to the Brazilian Committee of Human Rights Defenders, at least 24 HRDs – mainly in rural areas and indigenous communities in the North and Northeast - were killed in the first four months of 2016 alone. This places Brazil at the top of the list of killings of HRDs reported to Front Line Defenders this year.

At a press conference on Thursday, 28 July, in Vila do Largo, Rio de Janeiro, five HRDs at risk will describe the threats they face defending the rights of their communities amidst the Olympic Games:

Heloisa Helena Costa Berto is a Candomblé priestess from the Vila Autódromo community in west Rio, on the edge of the Olympic Park. Her home and her spiritual temple were destroyed to make way for Olympic construction. She's combating discrimination against Afro-Brazilians, and fighting for religions of African origin to be included in the ecumenical center of the Olympic Village.

Luiz Cláudio Silva and Maria da Penha, a married couple, are two of few people to remain in the Vila Autódromo community after police violently evicted more than 650 families. Olympic developers planned to build facilities in that area and wanted to remove the community to hide poverty from the visitors' eyes. In protest, Luiz and other HRDs launched an open air “Evictions Museum” amidst the rubble, and built an Olympic torch made of debris.

Mônica Cunha founded Movimento Moleque, an organisation for mothers whose children were threatened, attacked or killed by the police. Her own son was killed by police officers in Riachuelo in 2006, and no investigation was opened. Now Mônica fights abuses committed by the security guards, police violence and discriminations against Afro-Brazilians youth.

Raull Santiago founded the collective Papo Reto (Straight Talk), a group of citizen journalists documenting police violence and other rights abuses in the Complexo do Alemão favela, collecting evidence with the aim to hold authorities accountable for attacks and killings.

Victor Ribeiro is a video activist who organised Mutirão de Mídia livre, a collaborative media project which gathers foreign and Brazilian independent journalists to document the social impact of the Olympic Games in Rio. For his work documenting state violations, Victor has faced threats, intimidation, false charges, and arbitrary detention.

Press Conference: Thursday, 28 July 2016
10:00am – 12:00pm
Vila do Largo, Rua Gago Coutinho, n 6
Rio de Janeiro, RJ
For map, click here.

To interview one of the HRDs or to speak with Front Line Defenders, please contact:

Erin Kilbride (International)

Ivi Oliveira (Brazil)