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Brazil: Bill amending Anti-Terrorism Law violates human rights

Global, 25 October 2021 - International human rights groups have sent a letter to the National Congress of Brazil pointing to human rights violations of the Bill that aims to amend the Anti-Terrorism Law. When approving the Bill in September of this year, a special Commission of the House of Representatives ignored recommendations by the United Nations on the risks the text poses to the protection of human rights, especially to the freedom of expression and of assembly.

A technical analysis document was sent to the President of the Brazilian House of Representatives by a diverse set of human rights organisations, in Latin America and beyond, including the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the Center for Legal and Social Studies (CELS), based Argentina. The document lists technical issues and recommends the repeal of Bill 1595/2019, which amends the Anti-Terrorism Law (Law 13.260/2016) and creates a system of counter-terrorist actions. Among the elements highlighted by international experts is the fact that the Bill represents a worrying trend in legislation that paves the way for violations of freedom of expression and of assembly by the State on the Latin American continent. The document, which has been signed by 14 organisations, asks that Congress act to defend and guarantee human rights within the scope of its constitutional competencies.

The document points out three main problems of the Bill:

(1) the creation of a new concept of terrorism with broad and undefined criteria, which violates international human rights standards;
(2) the great imbalance between the powers of the Republic, with the creation of the force for surveillance of terrorist actions within the Executive Branch; and
(3) a dangerous presumption of legality for actions to combat terrorism, without effective mechanisms of control and accountability regarding abusive interventions that may be committed by public agents.

During the approval of the bill by the Special Committee of the House of Representatives, on September 16, 2021, the parliamentarians ignored recommendations coming from both the United Nations Special Rapporteurs and the Regional Office for Latin America of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. These experts warned the Brazilian State about the gravity and high risks that legislation with these characteristics represents for human rights.

"Bill 1595/2019 opens the door to the unjustified persecution and criminalisation of dissident voices and social movements, illegitimately associating them with terrorism, with all the legal consequences that this entails. The approval of this law does not only mean a problem for Brazil, since it represents a dangerous legal precedent for the region. Latin America has a sad history associated with the political persecution of dissent, and the countries of the region cannot approve initiatives that open legal paths for the continuity of this history", said Luciana Pol, Senior Specialist for Security Policy and Human Rights at the Center for Legal and Social Studies (CELS) in Argentina.

"The International Working Group dedicated to Torture and Terrorism of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) has seen the impact of similar initiatives in other countries. Initiatives of this kind, instead of providing greater security, multiply arbitrary actions in a framework of growing impunity, which deepens processes of stigmatisation and criminalisation of dissidents and political groups in situations of greater vulnerability", said Helena Solà Martín, coordinator of the Working Group on Torture and Terrorism at the OMCT.

Check out the full letter attached.

Contact: Iolanda Jaquemet, OMCT Director of Communications
+41 79 539 41 06

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