Why Brazil must respond for Belo Monte's human rights violations | Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA) Skip to content Skip to navigation
12 July 2018

We did it! We’re proud to say we recently submitted the final arguments in our case against Brazil before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

In them, we demonstrate the damages Belo Monte has caused to indigenous and traditional communities, and residents of Altamira, the city closest to the dam. We’re working for them—to bring the government of Brazil to justice.

“Human rights violations are a daily occurrence for those of us affected by the dam,” explained Antônia Melo, coordinator of the Movimento Xingu Vivo para Sempre, a citizens’ collective formed in the face of the dam’s implementation. “It’s urgent that our petition before the Commission advance to sanction the government and guarantee our rights.”

We argue that the damages to local communities resulted from a severe lack of foresight and inadequate evaluation, as well as from failure to comply with the conditions for operation established by the government.

The many risks denounced prior to the dam’s construction have since become long-term damages—many of which have affected men and women, and youth and the elderly, in different ways.

Our report documents the displacement of indigenous and traditional communities forced to leave their territories without adequate alternatives, placing their cultural survival at risk.

Among the affected populations are communities dedicated to fishing, who have not yet been compensated for the loss of livelihood. The dam has caused mass die-offs of fish and, although authorities have imposed millions in fines, the report demonstrates that the underlying problem has not been resolved. Local communities now have limited use of the Xingu River as a source of food, sustenance, transportation and entertainment.

We have also noted—among other serious harms—the disappearance of traditional trades, such as brickmakers and cart drivers, and of traditional cultural practices. Women, for example, have stopped giving birth in their homes and must now go to a hospital, a reality that has drastically worsened due to the oversaturation of health and education services in Altamira caused by the recent population surge.

Our case is now in the hands of the Commission.

They will prepare their own report, concluding whether or not human rights violations occurred as a result of the Belo Monte Dam. If violations did occur, they may issue recommendations for remediation.

If Brazil fails to respond, the case may be referred to the Inter-American Court on Human Rights, which has the power to issue a ruling condemning Brazil.

The completion of this report brings us—and, more importantly, the communities we represent—one big step closer to achieving justice for the many wrongs committed in the name of the Belo Monte Dam, and energy development in the Amazon.


About the Author

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Marcella Ribeiro d'Ávila Lins Torres

Marcella Ribeiro d’Ávila Lins Torres is a Brazilian attorney with AIDA's Human Rights and Environment Program, working from Brazil. She holds an LL.B. in Law from the Universidade Federal da Paraíba, a LL.M in International Human Rights Law from the University of Notre Dame, and a diploma in Advocacy for NGOs from the Advocacy Hub. She specialized in economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights, international human rights systems, and climate justice. She is well-versed in the practice of human rights law through litigation, advocacy, and campaigning, and is responsible for the coordination of several cases and projects with traditional communities, indigenous people, and HRE defenders at AIDA. She coordinates the Brazilian team, being responsible for identifying opportunities for expanding AIDA’s work in the country. Marcella is AIDA’s focal point on work with defenders and the link between the Human Rights and Climate programs.


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