Wednesday, June 11, 2014

BRAZIL'S OWN GOAL: Response to protests more suited to years of military dictatorship

Brazil Government estimates it will spend around 1.9billion reals (£494million) on 'security' equipment, such as tanks with water cannons, pepper spray and surveillance drones, for the games – the rights group said this is hardly a sign of a country which respects its citizens’ rights to protest. Photo Credit: Total Football
Research published in Brazil’s Own Goal by the multinational human rights group, ARTICLE19, shows that the state’s response to demonstrations has been one of increasing repression and violence, more suited to Brazil’s years of military dictatorship.

The countdown to the 2014 World Cup has been marked by a series of demonstrations across Brazil, with hundreds of thousands of Brazilians protesting against government corruption, unaccountable decision-making and the vast expenditure used to host the games, money which they believe would be better spent on public services.

ARTICLE19 accuses the police of using excessive force against demonstrators, including highly indiscriminate use of potentially lethal rubber bullets and tear gas.

“A large number of police officers have been spotted removing their identification during the protests and refusing to identify themselves when asked so as to ensure their actions cannot be traced back to them,” it stated on May 29.

“There have been thousands of arbitrary arrests and the practices of preventative detention and prior restraint are rife.”

To compound the crackdown on freedom of expression, they noted that several bills have been proposed in congress to criminalise demonstrations, including increasing the penalty for crimes related to damage to property and persons when these happen in demonstrations, the criminalisation of the use of masks in protests and the closure of public roads.

Furthermore, the General World Cup Law, which was approved in 2012, already prohibits demonstrations that do not contribute to a so-called ‘festive and friendly’ event.

This means that some protests could be considered illegal depending on their nature if held anywhere near a stadium, which of course are mainly in highly populated urban areas, the research revealed.

The right to protest and freedom of expression is protected under international law, and yet Brazil’s Own Goal shows that these rights are being stripped away in the country. 

Brazil Government estimates it will spend around 1.9billion reals (£494million) on 'security' equipment, such as tanks with water cannons, pepper spray and surveillance drones, for the games – the rights group said this is hardly a sign of a country which respects its citizens’ rights to protest. 

Brazil’s Own Goal research shows the number of people detained in protests in 2013 reached 2,608. Worryingly, ARTICLE19 said it is not aware of any sanctions against police who have committed violations during demonstrations, even though many of these incidents have been recorded on film. 

ARTICLE19 has called on the Brazilian government to ensure the rights to protest and freedom of expression are protected, by introducing a new law to regulate the use of police force during demonstrations, which should follow international standards.

“This law should also ensure policing at protests is designed to safeguard the people’s right to protest in a safe manner, and that the emphasis should be on negotiation rather than that of repression as it currently stands,” it stated.

Brazil is currently led by President Dilma Rousseff, who was herself tortured during the dictatorship, but the state machinery still retains its military mindset, viewing even the most peaceful protest as a threat.

READ HERE Article 19's report - Brazil's own goal: Protests, Police and the World Cup 

SOURCE: Article19 

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