Brazil: Court decision puts spotlight on crimes against indigenous people

Brazil: Court decision puts spotlight on crimes against indigenous people
3 min 55Approximate reading time

In a historic decision regarding crimes against humanity committed by the military dictatorship (1964-1985) against the indigenous Kinja people (also known as Waimiri-Atroari), the Brazilian Federal Justice of the state of Amazonas put out restraining orders against the Federal Government and the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI), opening the way for an unprecedented judicial acknowledgement of the violence suffered by the Kinja Indigenous during that period.

In this first writ on 01.19.2018 the court obliged the Federal Government to present in the next 15 days all the documents concerning the military operations carried out between 1967 and 1977 in Amazonas and determined that FUNAI shall immediately protect the sacred sites still threatened by the invasion of Kinja’s land. Containing 1,500 pages of documentation, the judicial proceeding might be the first in history where a national court holds the Brazilian State accountable for genocide.

Amazon Forest

After the military coup in 1964, the government developed an official strategy for the occupation and exploitation of the North of Brazil, where the Amazon Forest and the ancestral land of many indigenous people are located. As part of the plan that longed for a “Great Brazil”, from 1968 to 1977 the federal government has built the road BR-174 connecting Manaus (Amazonas) to Boa Vista (Roraima), splitting the Kinja’s land and authorizing the use of force to discourage their historic resistance in having their sacred places occupied by outsiders.

According to the National Truth Commission and the Truth Committee of the State of Amazonas the construction of the BR-174 by the militaries claimed the lives of thousands of the Kinja, whose population was reduced from 3,000 individuals (in the 70s) to 332 individuals (in the 80s), as a result of comissive and omissive acts by the Army and the National Indian Foundation (Funai, in Portuguese initials). In addition, testimonies collected by the Federal Prosecutor’s Office (MPF, in Portuguese initials) reported that many corpses were buried in mass graves opened on the side of the road and that airstrikes were conducted over the Kinja’s villages, also reporting the use of chemical substances “similar to napalm”.