Brazilian environment and human rights defenders – S&Ds nominees for the 2019 Sakharov Prize

The Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament have jointly nominated three Brazilian activists for the 2019 Sakharov Prize. They represent voices for human rights and protection of the environment. 

The nominated are:

Chief Raoni, the charismatic and internationally famous leader of the Kayapo people, a Brazilian indigenous group. He has been crusading for four decades to save his homeland, the Amazon forest. He is a living symbol of the tribes’ ‘fight for life’, a fight to protect their unique culture, which is directly connected to nature itself.

Claudelice Silva dos Santos, a Brazilian environmentalist and human rights defender. She became an activist following the killing of her brother and sister-in-law who were killed for their efforts to combat illegal logging and deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon rain forest.

Marielle Franco (posthumous), an openly gay Brazilian politician, feminist and human rights activist who was an outspoken critic of police brutality and extra-judicial killings. She served as a Rio de Janeiro city councillor from January 2017 until March 2018 when she was shot and killed along with her driver.  

S&D vice-president responsible for foreign affairs, Kati Piri, said:

“For years Brazil has been one of the most dangerous countries in the Americas for human rights defenders, and as Global Witness revealed, also the riskiest in the world for defenders of human rights relating to land or the environment. 

“The fight of these nominees from Brazil deserve to be put in the spotlight as they represent the cause of environmentalist defenders and LGBTI activists around the world. Although indigenous people make up less than 1 percent of Brazil’s population, a disproportionate number are being killed in land conflicts. Since the new regime took office in January, the Bolsonaro administration has established a climate of fear for various human rights defenders, by adopting measures that threaten the rights to life, health, freedom, land and the territory of Brazilians.

“With our nomination, we also want to express our support to the LGBTI rights defenders in Brazil. At least 420 people from the LGBTI community were murdered, including Marielle Franco, or committed suicide in 2018, fuelled by homophobia and hate crimes, according to the Gay Group of Bahia (GGB).”

MEP Isabel Santos, S&D spokesperson on the human rights, added:

“It would be the first time that the Sakharov prize is awarded to environmental human rights defenders and an LGBTI-activist. The climate emergency that we are facing is more than enough reason to give this award to people fighting against the destruction of our planet and to defend indigenous people’s rights.

“More and more environmental activists are losing their lives and the numbers of threats, harassment and violence against them are increasing at an alarming rate, especially in Brazil and the countries surrounding the Amazon forest. This is the right time for the European Parliament to take a stand against this problem. Awarding the Sakharov Prize to nominees that fight for the rights of their people and for the defence of their land and way of life, connected with the climate emergency that our planet is facing, is the right way to raise awareness of all these issues.”

Note to editors:

The Sakharov Prize is awarded every year by the European Parliament to human rights activists around the world. The vote on the three finalist candidates for the 2019 Sakharov Prize will take place in a joint meeting of the foreign affairs, human rights and development committees in October, and after that, the Conference of Presidents will take the decision on the final laureate. The prize-awarding ceremony will take place in December, during the plenary session in Strasbourg.