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Militarization of indigenous land and the quilombola communities of Brazil

Facts and Norms Institute contributes again with the United Nations by submitting an input on how the military might affect different quilombola lands and their inhabitants.

Quilombola traditional houses in Maranhão. Image source: Wikipedia, 2012.

Pursuant to the United Nations Human Rights Council resolution 33/25, during its fourteenth session in 2021, the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples confirmed its decision to prepare a report on the militarization of indigenous land.

In order to prepare for the report, the Expert Mechanism invited contributions from Indigenous Peoples, States, National Human Rights Institutions, academics and other stakeholders.

Facts and Norms Institute recently concluded its submission to the Expert Mechanism: an input with relevant information about the military and quilombola communities in Brazil — notably, the quilombola communities of Rio dos Macacos and Alcântara.

Quilombola and indigenous communities

Quilombola communities are traditional, culturally distinct communities generally formed by individuals of African and indigenous descent.

They are mostly rural, even though there are also urban quilombos. Quilombolas are analogous to indigenous peoples.

Their cultural distinctiveness allows for their juridical characterization as tribal peoples, according to the legal definition established by the International Labour Organization Convention No. 169.

Quilombolas often face obstacles to the recognition of – and respect to – their land rights.
The lack of land ownership and security translates into difficulties accessing water and sanitation, as the installation of essential services (energy, water, sanitation) is often dependent upon formal titles of property.

Militarization of quilombola land

Brazilian quilombola communities have denounced human rights violations deriving from the militarization of their land.

A case in point concerns the quilombola community of Rio dos Macacos. The quilombolas have denounced the installation of the military in their region decades ago, with continuing restriction to their freedom of movement, among other negative impacts to their human rights.

Another instance of militarization relates to the quilombola communities of Alcântara. Decades ago, a military base was installed inside the territories of the quilombola communities as part of a development project related to rocket launching and space-related activities. The quilombolas have denounced the past and continuous impacts of the installation of the base in their territory for many years.

The situation concerning the quilombolas of Alcântara was examined by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights as a contentious case. After concluding that the human rights of the quilombolas were violated, in January 2021 the Commission submitted the case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights .


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