Michelle Bachelet on killing of indigenous leader in Amapá, Brazil

“The murder of Emrya Wajãpi, leader of the indigenous Wajãpi people, is tragic and reprehensible in its own right. It is also a disturbing symptom of the growing problem of encroachment on indigenous land – especially forests – by miners, loggers and farmers in Brazil.

The Brazilian Government’s proposed policy to open up more areas of the Amazon to mining could lead to incidents of violence, intimidation and killings of the type inflicted on the Wajãpi people last week. 

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It is essential that the authorities react quickly and effectively to investigate this incident, and to bring to justice all those responsible in full accordance with the law. Furthermore, effective measures should be taken to save the lives and physical integrity of the Waiãpi people, including through protection of their territory by the authorities.

The protection of indigenous peoples, and the land on which they live, has been an important issue all across the world, not just in Brazil. While some progress has been made in recent years, we have also seen weak enforcement of existing laws and policies, and in some cases the dismantling of existing environmental and indigenous institutional frameworks, as appears now to be the case in Brazil.

I urge the Government of Brazil to act decisively to halt the invasion of indigenous territories and ensure the peaceful exercise of their collective rights to their land. When indigenous people are pushed off their lands, it is not just an economic issue. As the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples* makes clear, it affects their entire way of life. 

I call on the Government of Brazil to reconsider its policies towards indigenous peoples and their lands, so that Emrya Wajãpi’s murder does not herald a new wave of violence aimed at scaring people off their ancestral lands and enabling further destruction of the rainforest, with all the scientifically-established ramifications that has for the exacerbation of climate change.”