Brazil ignored international court decision on the Yanomami since July – 01/24/2023

On July 1, 2022, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights issued a decision demanding a response from Brazil to “protect the life, personal integrity and health of members of the Yanomami, Ye’kwana and Munduruku indigenous peoples”.

The commission that evaluated the case said that the situation of individuals from these three populations was of “extreme gravity and urgency”.

Among the measures that the country would need to take, the court pointed out the need to “effectively protect the life, personal integrity, health and access to food and drinking water” of these peoples.

In addition, the court asked the Brazilian State for a report with a summary of the actions that were taken to reverse the situation by September 20, 2022. After that, it asked for new updates on the case every three months.

BBC News Brasil contacted the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to find out if the country was complying with the measures.

Through its press office, the agency stated that, “until today, the court is waiting for a response from the Brazilian State.”

How the case started

The court resolution is available online and outlines the entire process from the beginning.

On May 17, 2022, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which is responsible for submitting requests to the court, made a request for provisional measures regarding the Yanomami, Ye’kwana and Munduruku peoples.

In this context, provisional measures are decisions that the court takes for “cases of extreme gravity and urgency, when it is necessary to avoid irreparable harm to people”.

“On many occasions, these provisional measures can save the life of a person or a group against which the guarantee of human rights is being threatened”, explains the court itself on the official website.

Beginning of the court ruling on the protection of three Brazilian indigenous peoples


As a justification for the request, the commission pointed out that these three peoples are “in a situation of violence” because of “conflicts between the indigenous people and unauthorized people who are illegally exploiting minerals” — the garimpeiros.

As evidence of these conflicts, those responsible for the complaint cite threats to the life and persecution of indigenous leaders who denounced mining, attacks with firearms, threats in WhatsApp groups, forced displacement of populations, sexual violence against girls and women and child exploitation.

The commission also reported that there had been “an advance in mining activity in the Yanomami indigenous land in 2022”. According to them, the exploitation of minerals was accompanied by the trafficking of drugs and weapons.

Specifically on the effects of this scenario on health, the document states that there has been “an increase in illnesses related to contamination of water by mercury”, the “spread of infectious diseases”, such as covid-19 and malaria, the “lack of medicines services” and the “worsening of child malnutrition”.

Brazil’s response

After this first report of May 2022, the Brazilian State sent a response in which it alleges “groundlessness, due to the lack of characterization of a situation of extreme gravity and urgency”.

The country’s representatives also argued that “most of the facts listed by the commission have already been considered” and that there was “no deliberate action by the State” in this crisis.

Finally, the document also informs that all the actions required by the commission had already been put into practice — such as, for example, the initiation of investigations by the Federal Police into cases of violence and homicide, the creation of sanitary barriers to prevent transmission of diseases and the strengthening of basic health care programs among indigenous peoples.

Brazil then requested that the request for provisional measures be rejected by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

the verdict

Even in the face of the arguments presented by Brazil, the members of the court expressed “great concern” with what happens to the three indigenous peoples.

In the decision, released in July 2022, the authors reinforce and make it clear that this is a situation of extreme gravity and urgency.

They also point out that “violations continue to occur”.

Based on this analysis, the court unanimously determined the adoption of eight provisional measures by the Brazilian State:

  • Effectively protect the lives, personal integrity, health and access to food and drinking water of members of the Yanomami, Ye’kwana and Munduruku indigenous peoples, from a culturally appropriate perspective, with a focus on gender and age;
  • Prevent sexual exploitation and violence against women and girls of indigenous peoples;
  • Prevent the spread and mitigate the spread of diseases, especially covid-19, providing indigenous people with adequate medical care, in accordance with applicable international standards;
  • Protect the life and personal integrity of indigenous leaders who are threatened;
  • Immediately coordinate this action plan and inform indigenous leaders about the progress of the measures;
  • Submit an updated report on the measures taken to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights by September 20, 2022;
  • Ask representatives of indigenous peoples to comment on the report presented in September, so that ideas can be discussed and improved;
  • Submit new status reports every three months.

Brazil has been a party to the American Convention on Human Rights since September 25, 1992. The country also recognizes the authority of this international court since December 10, 1998.

In practice, this means that judgments and provisional measures issued by the body are mandatory for all Member States (as is the case in Brazil).

On a visit to Yanomami territory, Lula says the situation is ‘inhumane’


In practice, however, the measures were ignored. As mentioned at the beginning of the report, the court’s communication department informed BBC News Brasil that it “awaits a response from the Brazilian State” and the reports were not sent within the indicated deadlines – the first of them in September 2022 and, from then on , every three months.

The largest indigenous reserve in Brazil

According to the Instituto Socioambiental (ISA), the Yanomami indigenous land is inhabited by eight peoples, has around 26,700 inhabitants and comprises an area of ​​9.6 million hectares.

It was ratified and recognized by the Brazilian government in 1992, through a decree signed by then President Fernando Collor (PTB).

The territory is located between the states of Amazonas and Roraima, to the north, on the border of Brazil and Venezuela.

Among the peoples that inhabit the place are the Yanomami, the Ye’kwana (both cited in the decision of the Inter-American Court), the isolated from Serra da Estrutura, the isolated from Amajari, the isolated from Auaris/Fronteira, the isolated from the Lower Rio Cauaburis, the Parawa isolates and the Surucucu/Kataroa isolates.

The Munduruku, on the other hand, inhabit regions and territories of forests and navigable rivers in Pará, Amazonas and Mato Grosso. The main indigenous territory of this population is close to the Cururu river, a tributary of the Tapajós.

The report Yanomami Under Attackpublished in April 2022 by the Hutukara Associação Yanomami and the Associação Wanasseduume Ye’kwana, with technical assistance from ISA, takes stock of the illegal extraction of gold and other minerals in that region.

“It is known that the problem of illegal mining is not new in TIY [Terra Indígena Yanomami]. However, its scale and intensity has grown impressively over the last five years. Data from MapBiomas indicate that from 2016 onwards, the mining destruction curve took on an upward trajectory and, since then, has accumulated increasing rates. According to the platform’s calculations, from 2016 to 2020, mining at TIY grew by no less than 3,350%”, points out the text.

Airstrip on Yanomami land that is used by illegal miners - GETTY IMAGES - GETTY IMAGES

Airstrip on Yanomami land that is used by illegal miners


The survey of associations shows that, in October 2018, the total area destroyed by mining amounted to just over 1,200 hectares.

“Since then, the impacted area has more than doubled, reaching a total of 3,272 hectares in December 2021”, continues the publication.

The report informs that the advance of mining on indigenous lands is linked to “considerable losses” in the quality of life of the residents of the region, with worsening in the indicators of violence, health and social support.

Illegal mining is also the main source of problems among the Munduruku.

According to ISA, this indigenous land “is among the most pressured and threatened by illegal mining in the Amazon”.

“The Sirad-I monitoring identified 440 hectares of forest deforested in the interior of the territory since the beginning of the year – 136 hectares in the month of October alone. Since 2020, when the TI began to be monitored, 1.5 million trees have been felled” , reports the agency.

– This text was published at

The article is in Portuguese

Tags: Brazil international court decision Yanomami July

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