On 28 January 2013, a number of Brazilian civil society organisations and social movements addressed an open letter to the Coordinator of the National Programme for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (NPPHRD) and the Presidency regarding the security situation for human rights defender Alexandre Anderson de Souza.
Alexandre Anderson de Souza is head of the Associação dos Homens do Mar – AHOMAR (Association of Seamen), an organisation set up to defend the rights of the fisherfolk working in Rio de Janeiro, and particularly those affected by the construction of a gas pipeline for Petrobras. AHOMAR argues that there are reports of environmental permit irregularities in the construction of the pipeline and it will have a negative impact on local flora and fauna as well as on the livelihood of those who fish in those waters in the Guanabara Bay.
Alexandre Anderson de Souza has suffered a number of threats to his life and has been under the NPPHRD since 2009, but the federal government has delegated the responsibility to authorities in the state of Rio de Janeiro, where he and his family live. However, the human rights defender and a number of Brazilian civil society organisations and social movements that support him, have been repeatedly expressing their discontent with the protection offered by the state programme and the conditions in which Alexandre Anderson de Souza, his wife Ms Daize Menezes and their children have been forced to live. As the situation has worsened the human rights defender and his family have had to relocate to different hotels in the city of Rio de Janeiro but the locations were highly insecure. The buildings did not have 24-hour reception personnel and the rooms they were accommodated in had no telephone. The protection programme has been unable to ensure Alexandre and his family’s return to their residence in Magé, and as a result the human rights defender remains unable to resume his work at AHOMAR. Four members of AHOMAR have been killed to date.
Another point of discontent with the state protection programme has been the unsatisfactory level of legal support provided to the human rights defender by the non-governmental organisation (NGO) Projeto Legal (Legal Project). Projeto Legal has signed an agreement with the government of the state of Rio de Janeiro, in the context of the state protection programme, to provide legal support and advice to the human rights defenders included in the programme. After repeated complaints about the NGO’s inaction in several instances, Alexandre Anderson de Souza received information from a reliable source that one of Projeto Legal’s main funders is Petrobras, the same oil company whose actions the human rights defender and his organisation AHOMAR have been trying to hold accountable for environmental damages. The information was confirmed on the websites of both Petrobras and the NGO, but neither they, nor the government of the state of Rio de Janeiro, have clarified the terms of the agreement, raising doubts over the impartiality of the organisation and a conflict of interests.
The open letter signed by several civil society organisation addressed the main concerns of Alexandre Anderson de Souza and other NGOs working with human rights defenders in the country. While welcoming the formal establishment of the state of Rio de Janeiro’s protection programme for human rights defenders through the Decree 44.038 signed on 18 January 2013, the letter asks for Alexandre and his wife Daize, as well as other human rights defenders who are currently under the protection of the state, to have their security ensured by the National Protection Programme until the state protection programme is fully operating and able to fully ensure the safety of human rights defenders in the territory of the state of Rio de Janeiro.
Front Line Defenders is gravely concerned following reports of the vulnerable security situation of human rights defender Alexandre Anderson de Souza and his family, and of other human rights defenders under the protection of the state of Rio de Janeiro.