Brazil: UN experts call for peaceful elections

Geneva, 22 September, 2022.- UN experts today urged authorities, candidates and political parties in Brazil to ensure upcoming general elections are peaceful and election-related violence is prevented.

Threats, intimidation and political violence, including death threats against candidates, continue to increase online and offline, particularly against women, indigenous peoples, Afro-descendants and LGBTI persons – often on the basis of intersecting identities. Such actions generate terror among the population and deter potential candidates from running for office. The disproportionate impact of political violence on women, indigenous peoples, Afro-descendants and LGBTI persons can heighten this chilling effect amongst such groups, limiting opportunities for their representation in decisions affecting them, thereby perpetuating the devastating cycle of exclusion.

The experts expressed their concerns at the ongoing defamatory campaign and continuing attacks against democratic institutions, the judiciary and the electoral system in Brazil including the electronic electoral system.

“We call on the authorities to protect and duly respect the work of the electoral institutions. We further express our concerns over the impact such attacks could have on the upcoming presidential election, and stress the importance of protecting and guaranteeing judicial independence,” the experts said.

“We are concerned that this hostile environment represents a threat to political participation and democracy and urge the State to protect candidates from any threats, acts of intimidation or attacks online and offline,” they said.

“All those involved in the electoral process must commit themselves to peaceful conduct prior, during and after elections. Candidates and political parties must refrain from using offensive language which may lead to violence and human rights abuses.”

The experts said that hate speech, gendered disinformation, and incitement by candidates and their supporters during the election campaign period can spark violence.

“The State must ensure that all electoral processes are non-discriminatory, free of disinformation, hate speech and incitement to violence. All fundamental freedoms, including the rights to freedom of assembly and association, as well as to freedom of expression must be upheld,” they said.

They urged Brazilian authorities to take specific measures, targeted to those most at risk, including women, Afro-Brazilians, indigenous peoples and LGBTI persons, to ensure that everyone can participate freely in the electoral process, without discrimination, harassment or fear of potential repetition of sexual and gender-based violence.

The UN experts also urged authorities to ensure civil society, human rights defenders, election monitors and journalists can conduct their legitimate work without intimidation, physical attacks or reprisals. “We are deeply concerned at reports of harassment and attacks against journalists, in particular women. Journalists play a crucial role during elections by contributing to a free and inclusive electoral process and the credibility of results,” the experts said.

Past elections in Brazil have been marked by violence and human rights violations, including the murder in 2018 of Rio de Janeiro city councillor Marielle Franco, who was a well-known champion for women’s rights, racial equality and the rights of LGBTI persons.

Concerns about such alleged violations have been raised by several UN experts in a joint communication to the Government of Brazil following the 2018 elections. In this context, “the State must investigate her execution effectively, promptly, thoroughly and impartially, and take action against those responsible in accordance with domestic and international law”, the experts concluded.

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