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17 July 2002
UA 216/02 Fear for Safety
Death threats have been received by Hiparidi Top'tiro, an indigenous leader from the Sangradouro indigenous reserve in Primavera do Leste, Mato Grosso state, his family, and Dr Mariana Ferreira, an anthropologist from the University of Tennessee who has been working in the area. Amnesty International is concerned for their safety, and for the safety of other researchers who have been working with Dr Ferreira.
Both Hiparidi Top'tiro and Dr Mariana Ferreira are working for the Xavante Wara Association in Primavera do Leste. They are working together on an environmental project called Salve o Cerrado (Save the Sierra), that is being developed by the Xavante Wara association in conjunction with the Brazilian federal government and the Universities of Sao Paulo and Tennessee. The death threats they have both received are believed to be connected to their work on this project, and therefore other researchers working on this project may also be in danger.
Hiparidi Top'tiro is the president of the Xavante Wara association, and a well-known environmental campaigner. He has been the target of death threats for some time, allegedly related both to his work on Salve o Cerrado and a legal action that he brought against local landowners for allegedly deforesting part of an indigenous area. According to reports, the regional administrator of the National Indigenous Foundation (Fundacao Nacional do Indio, FUNAI) in Primavera do Leste, who has strong links to landowners in the region, has long been intimidating and threatening Hiparidi Top'tiro and his family. Although they have reported this behaviour to the national FUNAI Directive on several occasions, no action has been taken to address it.
Dr Mariana Ferreira works as a consultant to the Xavante Wara and makes regular visits to Primavera do Leste. In June she spent 16 days there, carrying out research. The regional FUNAI administrator told Dr Mariana Ferreira and her team, on numerous occasions during this period that Hiparidi Top'tiro and members of his family were in grave danger. Dr Ferreira has also received what appear to be veiled death threats, or even attempts on her life. While driving in Sangradouro in June, a car tried to force her off the road. On another occasion the car she was travelling in nearly crashed into a boulder that had deliberately been moved onto the road into her path.
Although the 1988 Constitution required all indigenous lands in Brazil to be demarcated by 1993, only half of the 555 identified territories have been demarcated so far. In January 1996, this process was slowed down further by Decree 1775/96, which introduced complicated procedures by which non-indigenous claimants can challenge the demarcation of indigenous areas.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible:
Federal Secretary for Human Rights
President: National Indian Foundation
Federal Attorney General: Mato Grosso State
Indigenous Rights Organization
Ambassador Rubens Barbosa
Please send appeals immediately. Check with the Colorado office between 9:00 am and 6:00 pm, Mountain Time, weekdays only, if sending appeals after August 28, 2002.
Amnesty International is a worldwide grassroots movement that promotes and defends human rights.
July 22, 2002
Federal Secretary for Human Rights
Dear Federal Secretary,
Concerns over the safety of Hiparidi Top'tiro, a Xavante man from the Sangradouro Reserve in Mato Grosso, his family and anthropologist Dr. Mariana Ferreira have recently come to my attention.
I write to request that threats against them be investigated immediately and that, should they be substantiated, those responsible be brought to justice. I am concerned that persistent reports of threatening behavior made by the FUNAI regional administrator in Primavera do Leste, MT have not been investigated.
Should these reports be verified, I urge you and other authorities to implement all appropriate disciplinary and legal sanctions to the FUNAI regional administrator and other involved parties.
I request that federal authorities provide protection for Mr. Top'tiro, the members of his family, and for Dr. Ferreira and the members of her research team until this situation has been investigated and the situation is resolved.
Thank you for your attention to my concerns and requests.