A group of United Nations human rights rapporteurs* expressed concern about attacks on democratic institutions, the judiciary and the electoral system in Brazil, 10 days before the country’s elections.
In a statement, eight experts, including the rapporteur Irene Khan for the right to freedom of expression and opinion, warned of intimidation, political violence and even death threats to women and men candidates.
Other groups targeted by violence are indigenous peoples, Afro-descendants and Lgbtiq+.
Elections in Brazil take place on October 2 this year
Violence alienates candidates especially women and minorities
In the communiqué, the rapporteurs cited aggression and incitement to violence by candidate supporters and even by politicians themselves.
Another problem is hate speech and the deliberate disinformation campaign.
For experts, these actions, in addition to attempts to terrorize the population, prevent many people from running for elected office. The impact of violence on women and other minorities also limits their seeing themselves represented, causing a devastating cycle of exclusion.
Photo: UN/ Jean-Marc Ferré
Headquarters of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, Switzerland
Attacks on democratic institutions
The UN rapporteurs cited the smear campaign and continuous attacks on democratic institutions, the judiciary and the electoral system in Brazil, including electronic voting machines.
“We urge the authorities to duly protect and respect the work of electoral institutions. We also express our concerns about the impact that such attacks could have on the upcoming presidential elections, and we emphasize the importance of protecting and guaranteeing judicial independence,” the experts said.
The group of rapporteurs called it a “hostile environment”, which could pose a threat to political participation and democracy. They said that Brazil has to protect candidates from any threats, acts of intimidation or attacks on or off the internet.”
The eight human rights experts say that peaceful conduct must prevail before, during and after elections. And that candidates should not use offensive speech that could lead to human rights abuses.
UN experts also urged the authorities to ensure that civil society, human rights defenders, election observers and journalists can carry out their legitimate work without intimidation, physical attacks or reprisals.
A human rights defender, Marielle Franco led struggles on behalf of marginalized populations.
Marielle Franco, Anderson Gomes, Jair Bolsonaro and Ciro Gomes
“We are deeply concerned about reports of harassment and attacks against journalists, in particular women. Journalists play a crucial role during elections, contributing to a free and inclusive electoral process and to the credibility of the results.”
The rapporteurs recalled episodes of violence in politics such as the murder of councilor Marielle Franco, which has not yet been clarified. She was shot to death alongside her driver Anderson Gomes as she was leaving an event with supporters in Rio de Janeiro.
Also during the 2018 campaign, the country’s current president, Jair Bolsonaro, was stabbed during a rally in Juiz de Fora, Minas Gerais.
According to local media, this year, the PDT candidate for the presidency of the country, Ciro Gomes, was also attacked while campaigning in Porto Alegre, in southern Brazil.
*Human rights rapporteurs are independent from the United Nations and do not receive a salary for their work.