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Brazil has yet to enact a specific law for the protection of environmental defenders.  A UN Treaty that obliges states to protect people and groups that defend the environment was signed by Brazil in September 2018, but still needs ratification.  Federal laws provide several tools for the protection of environmental defenders, including their relocation, the provision of financial aid, and secrecy of criminal or civil proceedings.

I. Safety of Environmental Defenders

Brazil does not have a specific law guaranteeing the safety of environmental defenders.  In the absence of specific laws, other laws may be used to guarantee the safety of such people, including, but not limited to, the Constitution, Penal Code,[2] and Code of Criminal Procedure.[3]

On September 27, 2018, Brazil signed the United Nations Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean, which was adopted on March 4, 2018, in Escazú, Costa Rica.[4]   According to the UN, the treaty is the first of its kind in the world to include specific, binding provisions for the protection and promotion of people, groups, and organizations that promote and defend human rights in environmental matters.[5]  Brazil has yet to ratify the treaty.

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II. Transfer or Temporary Relocation of Environmental Defenders

During a trial or before a case is addressed, an environmental defender could presumably benefit from the disposition of Law No. 9,807 of July 13, 1999, which sets forth rules for the creation and maintenance of special programs for the protection of threatened victims and witnesses, established the Federal Program for Assistance to Victims and Threatened Witnesses (Programa Federal de Assistência a Vítimas e a Testemunhas Ameaçadas), and protects accused or convicted persons who have voluntarily collaborated effectively with police investigations and the criminal process.[6]  Decree No. 3,518 of June 20, 2000, regulates the Federal Program for Assistance to Victims and Threatened Witnesses, which was created by article 12 of Law No. 9,807.[7]

According to article 7(III), the transfer of an individual from his or her residence, or the provision of temporary accommodation in a place more compatible with protection, are among the measures listed in the special programs, which are applicable individually or cumulatively for the benefit of the protected person, according to the severity and circumstances of each case.[8]

A. Specific Security Service

Article 1 of Law No. 9,807 determines that the protective measures required by victims or witnesses of crimes who are coerced or exposed to serious threat as a result of collaborating with a criminal investigation or prosecution must be provided by the Union, the states, and the Federal District, within their respective competencies, in the form of special programs organized on the basis of the provisions of Law No. 9,807.[9]  The Union, the states, and the Federal District may enter into agreements (convênios or acordos), adjustments, or terms of partnership between themselves or with nongovernmental entities to carry out the programs.[10]

B. Security Service to Family Members

The protection measures granted pursuant to the programs must take into account the severity of the coercion or the threat to the physical or psychological integrity of the person, the difficulty of preventing or suppressing such coercion or threats by conventional means, and  the importance of such measures for the production of evidence.[11]  The protection may be directed or extended to the spouse or partner, ascendants, descendants, and dependents who habitually cohabit with the victim or witness, as specifically necessary in each case.[12]

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III. Financial Resources Provided

Another measure listed in article 7 of Law No. 9,807 for the benefit of the protected person includes monthly financial support to cover necessary expenses for individual or family subsistence if the protected person is unable to perform regular work, has no other source of income,[13] or has been temporarily suspended from functional activities without prejudice to his or her salary or benefits when the person is a public or military servant.[14]

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IV. Emergency Applications

There appear to be no emergency applications available for cases involving environmental defenders.

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V. Rapid Responses and Secrecy

The legislation did not reveal any guarantees for environmental defenders to obtain rapid responses to emergency applications or the maintenance of secrecy of legal cases submitted. 

Article 201 of the Code of Criminal Procedure states that whenever possible, an offended person (i.e., a person against whom a crime allegedly was committed) will be asked about the circumstances of the infraction, who the perpetrator is or is presumed to be, and the evidence that he or she has, and will also be asked to make a written statement.[15]  The judge must take the necessary measures to preserve the privacy, private life, honor, and image of the offended person, and may even determine the “secrecy of justice” in relation to the data, statements, and other information contained in the case about the person to prevent his or her exposure to the media.[16]

In civil matters, article 189(I) of the Code of Civil Procedure determines that legal proceedings are to be conducted in public; however, proceedings may be conducted in secret where the public or social interest so requires.[17]

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VI. Dialogue

No legislation was found regarding the possibility of dialogue between mining companies, investors, public officials, and affected communities.

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Prepared by Eduardo Soares
Senior Foreign Law Specialist
November 2019


[1]Constituição Federal art. 5, https://perma.cc/YJ6V-XYPX.

[3] Código de Processo Penal [C.P.P.], https://perma.cc/4ZEL-HHGU.

[4] Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean (Regional Agreement) art. 4.1., Escazú, Mar. 4, 2018, C.N.195.2018.TREATIES-XXVII.18, https://perma.cc/4548-FXPP.

[5] UN Experts Urge Prompt Ratification of Landmark Latin America and Caribbean Environment Treaty, United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, https://perma.cc/LUQ3-WWDU.

[6] Lei No. 9.807, de 13 de Julho de 1999, art. 7(III), https://perma.cc/RLX6-HLJR.

[7] Decree No. 3,518 of June 20, 2000, https://perma.cc/G97Y-CXK6.

[8] Lei No. 9.807 art. 7(III).

[9] Id. art. 1.

[10] Id. art. 1(§ 1).

[11] Id. art. 2.

[12] Id. art. 2(§ 1).

[13] Id. art. 7(V).

[14] Id. art. 7(VI).

[15] C.P.P. art. 201.

[16] Id. art. 201(VI).

[17] Código de Processo Civil art. 189(I), https://perma.cc/8MSQ-5BWM.

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Last Updated: 12/30/2020