Brazil has a lackluster record when it comes to being a leader for Latin America on issues of human rights and democracy. While it does not join the ALBA alliance in voting against human rights at the UN Human Rights Council, it also fails to speak up and promote human rights in venues such as the OAS Permanent Council, preferring to remain silent. Despite the fact that Brazil, under former President Dilma Rousseff failed to make any voluntary contributions to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR or the Commission), and until the last moment supported a plan to gut the inter-American system, since her impeachment, Rousseff has appealed to the Commission for a hearing on whether her rights had been violated in the process. Brazil’s participation in the OAS and the inter-American system has improved under the government of President Michele Temer, including in the serious, qualified candidate it nominated for the three open seats on the IACHR. Despite the shift, and perhaps for obvious reasons, Brazil has not led a shift in the discussions and votes on Venezuela in the OAS. 

Below is a breakdown of Brazil’s actions and votes at the various venues we are monitoring. For more information click on each title and summary.


Freedom House  
Freedom Status Free
Aggregate Score (100 is perfect freedom and protection of rights) 75/100
Political Rights (scores out of 40, with 40 being the best)  31/40
Civil Liberties (scores out of 60, with 60 being the best) 44/60
Reporters Without Borders  
World Press Freedom Index (scores out of 100, with 1 being the best)  34/100
Transparency International  
Corruption Perception Index (CPI) 35/100
 Global Rank 106/180
World Justice Project [1]  
Rule-of-Law Index 0.52
 Regional rank  16/30
 Global rank 67/128
UN Human Development Index  
 Human Development Index 0.765
 Global rank 84
Americas Quarterly (last report 2016)  
 Social Inclusion Index 82.57/100
Regional rank 2/15

United Nations System:

United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC or Council)

Brazil is currently on the Council and their term expires in 2022. It was previously on the Council from 2012-2019. It has largely voted to uphold human rights at the Council on the issue of Syria and North Korea, but has abstained on Ukraine.

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UNHRC Resolutions on the conflict in Syria

Resolution 34/26 The human rights situation in the Syrian Arab Republic voted Yes
Resolution 30/10 The grave and deteriorating human rights and humanitarian situation in the Syrian Arab Republic voted Yes
Resolution 29/16 The grave and deteriorating human rights and humanitarian situation in the Syrian Arab Republic voted Yes
Resolution 28/20 The continuing grave deterioration in the human rights and humanitarian situation in the Syrian Arab Republic Abstained
 Resolution 27/16  The continuing grave deterioration in the human rights and humanitarian situation in the Syrian Arab Republic  voted Yes
 Resolution 26/23  The continuing grave deterioration in the human rights and humanitarian situation in the Syrian Arab Republic  voted Yes
 Resolution 25/23  The continuing grave deterioration in the human rights and humanitarian situation in the Syrian Arab Republic  voted Yes
 Resolution 24/22  The continuing grave deterioration of the human rights and humanitarian situation in the Syrian Arab Republic  voted Yes
Resolution 23/26 The deterioration of the situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic, and the need to grant immediate access to the commission of inquiry  voted Yes
Resolution 23/01 The deteriorating situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic, and the recent killings in Al-Qusayr voted Yes
Resolution 22/24, Situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic voted Yes

UNHRC resolutions on the conflict in Ukraine:

Resolution 29/23 Cooperation and assistance to Ukraine in the field of human rights Abstained
Resolution 26/30 Cooperation and assistance to Ukraine in the field of human rights  Abstained

UNHRC resolutions on the conflict in North Korea:

 Resolution 28/22  Situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea  voted Yes
 Resolution 25/25  Situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea  voted Yes
 Resolution 22/13  The situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea  Consensus


UNHRC’s Universal Periodic Review

As part of its mandate to promote human rights around the globe, the UNHRC has instituted a Universal Periodic Review, where, once every four years, each country’s human rights record is examined. Other countries are invited to review the record and make comments and suggestions for improvement. The country under review then acknowledges each comment by either “accepting” the comment, meaning typically that they agree to focus on, or “noting” it, indicating that they disagree and will not be focusing on improvements in this area.

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As recipient: Brazil received 170 recommendations. Accepted 169, noted 1. (only select topics listed below)

Area Received Accepted Noted
Civil society  1 1  –
Elections  –  –  –
Enforced disappearances  –  –
Extrajudicial executions  3 2  1
Freedom of association and peaceful assembly  1  1  –
Freedom of opinion and expression  1  1  –
Freedom of religion and belief  –  –  –
Freedom of press  1  1  –
Human rights defenders  11  11  –
Human rights violations by state agents  5  4  1
Impunity  –  –  –
Indigenous peoples  15  15  –
Internally displaced persons  –  –  –
International instruments  18  18  –
Justice  13  13  –
Migrants  3  3  –
Minorities  6  6  –
Racial discrimination  2  2  –
Sexual orientation and gender identity  2  2  –
Torture and CID treatment  9 9  –
Women’s rights  30  30  –
Total 170 169 1

Note: some comments are classified under multiple categories.

As commenter: Brazil is an active participant in the UPR process, with 329 comments made so far in the 2nd cycle (for data available). Only 16% made towards other Latin American countries, but consistently made 1-3 comments for most, but not all, countries around the globe. Israel was the only exception, receiving 4 comments from Brazil.

Main topics of comments included: international instruments (90 comments), women’s rights (75), rights of the child (72), torture (33), sexual orientation and gender identity (30), and racial discrimination (28).

Note: This data is for the 2nd cycle of the UPR.  However, the final round of countries were reviewed in November/December 2016, and that data is not yet available to include in our analysis here.[/expandableContent]

UN NGO Committee

Brazil has not been on the Committee since at least 1993.

Inter-American System:

OAS Permanent Council

Under the former leadership of Secretary General Luis Almagro, the OAS has re-found its focus on defending democracy but is still bound by the wishes and will of its members. But the newfound leader’s commitmentand the challengeswere shown at a meeting in June 2016 where Almagro presented his report on the state of democracy in Venezuela and proposed invoking the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

Brazil was noticeably quiet during the Permanent Council in June 2016, making few comments when Secretary General Luis Almagro presented his report laying out the evidence on how and why it was necessary to invoke the Inter-American Democratic Charter in Venezuela. Despite endless procedural hurdles thrown up by Venezuela and its allies, the Permanent Council eventually got to a vote, albeit on the procedural issue of the agenda and whether Almagro should present his report at all. That vote succeeded, despite lackluster support, Brazil joining the majority to allow Almagro to present his findings.

Brazil joined the majority once again, when at the 2017 OAS General Assembly it voted in favor of a resolution that called for the release of political prisoners and urged the Venezuelan government not to convene a constituent assembly that would rewrite the Venezuelan constitution. However, the resolution did not receive the votes needed to pass.

Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR or Commission)

During the 2017 OAS General Assembly, Brazilian candidate, Flávia Cristina Piovesan was elected as a new member to the IACHR. In 2016, President Michel Temer appointed Piovesan Special Secretary for Human Rights. She is also a professor of constitutional law and human rights at the Pontifícia Universidade Católica de São Paulo and is best known for her fight against the criminalization of abortion. She was highly rated by our evaluations of the candidates and supported broadly within the human rights community.

Brazil engages positively with the Commission at their thematic hearings, actively attending and asking for hearings on topics of concern in the country to demonstrate how they are tackling those issues. However, when it comes to voluntary funding, Brazil gives nothing beyond its member quota to the OAS.

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Hearing Issue Score
175th Allegations of restrictions on freedom of expression in Brazil
174th Aggression against freedom of religions of African origin in Brazil
173rd Fight Against Torture in Brazil, Environmental Protection in the Amazon and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Brazil (EX OFFICIO), and Social Participation and Control in Human Rights Policies in Brazil
172nd Protection and guarantee of the rights of indigenous peoples in Brazil, Reports of human rights violations of people affected by dams and reservoirs in Brazil, and Criminal System and alleged violations of the rights of African descendants in Brazil
171st Human Rights Situation of Indigenous Peoples in Brazil and Human Rights Situation of Quilombola Communities in Brazil
170th  Situation of human rights defenders in Brazil
161st  Reports of Confinement, mistreatment. and torture in the Prison System in Brazil  2/3
 161st  Human Rights Situation of Adolescent Offenders in Brazil 2/3
161st  Reports of Violence against LGBTI People in African Descent in Brazil  2.5/3
 159th  Human rights and legislative reforms in Brazil 2/3
 159th  Case 11.291 – Carandiru massacre (follow-up of recommendations), brazil 3/3
 159th Human rights education in Brazil 3/3
157th /158th* Human rights situation of afro-descendant women in Brazil  3/3
 157th /158th* Student protests and human rights in Sao Paulo, Brazil   2/3
 157th /158th* Cultural rights and the internet in Brazil (requested by the State)   3/3
 157th /158th*  Impacts on human rights of mining activity in Brazil  3/3
156th** Initial court appearances (requested by the State) 3/3
156th** Violence against indigenous peoples 3/3
 156th**  Case about indigenous peoples 3/3
 156th**  Violence against journalists in the Southern Cone  0/3

*Dilma Rousseff was still in office for the 157th, Temer was interim president for the 158th
** Held while Dilma Rousseff was still president

Voluntary financial contributions to IACHR (as of Sept. 16, 2016):

Year Contributions by Brazil Percentage of Total
Contributions to IACHR
2014  –


Electoral Missions

Brazil had their first OAS missions to monitor their general election in 2016. They have only had one other mission in 2020 to observe their municipal elections.

Freedom of Information Laws

Since 2000 the right to information and freedom of information laws have expanded across the region. However, the existence of the laws on the books does not necessarily mean full enforcement.

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Signatory/Participant in MESICIC* Yes
Constitutional protection* Yes
Specific law enacted* Yes- enacted in 2011
Is there a presumption of right* Yes
Scope/Exceptions/Overrides* Applies to all bodies, including private bodies that receive public funding; vague on national security exceptions and limited overrides
Received information under FOIA law?** 62%
Received information within a week?** 16%
Received the appropriate information?** 60%

*Data taken from the Global Right to Information ratings, provided by the Center for Law and Democracy. 
**Information from the 2015 World Justice Project Open Government Index


Women’s rights:

Protecting women against gender-based violence is a human rights issue often overlooked globally even though it crosses social, economic and national boundaries. And according to the United Nations Population Fund, gender-based violence undermines the health, security, dignity, and autonomy of its victims. Although 16 countries in Latin America had modified their laws to include a specific type of crime referring to the murder of women by 2015, they are not uniformly implemented, and practices to convict perpetrators of gender-based violence are still extremely weak. A 2016 report published by the Small Arms Survey found that Latin America and the Caribbean is home to 14 of the 25 countries with the highest rates of femicide in the world.

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While Brazil has specific femicide legislation, it has one of the worst records of gender-based violence. The Maria de Penha Act of 2015 defines penalties of gender and intrafamily violence, classifies femicide as a heinous crime and stipulates aggravated circumstances when the killing occurs in specific situations of vulnerability. Even with these measures in place, Brazil has an estimated female homicide rate of 4.5 per 100,000 women. The UN ECLAC had so many doubts about the Brazilian government’s data on femicide that it did not include it in its regional report.


Indigenous rights:

7.8 percent of the population in Latin America, roughly 41,813,039 people, identify as indigenous, 49 percent of them live in urban areas and 51 percent live in rural areas.

The Labour Organization’s Convention 169 (ILO 169)

The Labour Organization’s Convention 169 (ILO169)—which has the status of an international treaty—establishes the right of indigenous and tribal peoples to be consulted when a policy or project affects their culture or heritage through what is commonly called “previous and informed consent.” The vaguely worded treaty has been a point of contention in some countries, among governments, investors and communities; and progress in implementing it has been uneven. The Convention has been interpreted, in particular, as applying to issues of national resource extraction and infrastructure development that affect communal lands. In Latin America 16 countries have signed ILO 169.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People’s (UNDRIP)

Adopted by the UN General Assembly in September 2007, all Latin American countries, except Colombia, which abstained, voted in favor of this declaration. The only four countries to initially reject this declaration were the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand. While it is not a legally binding instrument, it is an “important standard” for the treatment of indigenous people. The declaration sets out the collective and individual rights of indigenous peoples, as well as their rights to culture, identity, language, employment, health, education, and other issues. It prohibits discrimination against indigenous peoples and promotes their full and effective participation in all matters that concern them and their right to remain distinct and to pursue their own visions of economic and social development. The end goal is to encourage countries to work alongside indigenous communities to solve global issues, like development, multicultural democracy and decentralization.

American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People

In 2016, the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) approved the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples after a long negotiation of 17 years. The declaration recognizes the collective organization and multicultural character of indigenous peoples, the self-identification of people who consider themselves indigenous and special protection for peoples in voluntary isolation or initial contact. However, the declaration was met with resistance by members of the indigenous community, who complained that they did not have full participation in the negotiations and that the declaration rolled back several rights recognized in UNDRIP. The declaration does not mention the right to previous and informed consultation.

Previous to the declaration, in 1990, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) had created the Office of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to devote attention to Indigenous Peoples in the Americas and to “strengthen, promote, and systemize the IACHR’s own work in this area. The current Rapporteur on the Right of Indigenous Peoples is Francisco José Eguiguren Praeli, Ambassador of Peru to Spain from 2012 to 2014 and Minister of the Office of Justice. He received a law degree from the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru with a master’s degree in Constitutional Law and a PhD in Humanities. Former Rapporteurs include, Rose-Marie Belle Antoine a former IACHR Commissioner and Dinah Shelton an international law consultant for the World Health Organization, the United Nations Environment Programme among other organizations.

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From 2011 to 2015, out of the 594 seats in the two-chamber national legislature, none were held by indigenous representatives.

In 2010, 817,963 people in Brazil identify as indigenous, or 0.5 percent of the population. Twenty nine percent of that population lived in urban areas.

Brazil voted in favor of UNDRIP, the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People and signed ILO 169. Up until 2009, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, reported that Brazil had important constitutional and other legal protections for indigenous peoples and had developed a number of programs in areas of indigenous land rights, development health and education. However, the rapporteur concluded that the government had to do more to ensure indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination and help indigenous people have greater control over their communities and land. Since then, the number of ongoing disputes with indigenous communities and claimants to their land has increased exponentially.

In 2011 the IACHR ordered the government to halt the Belo Monte dam project because it had not properly consulted with the Xingua people in affected areas. The Brazilian government ignored the ruling. The government has also made legal and political attacks on indigenous rights, in favor of economic projects. Brazil’s Supreme Court has yet to decide a case involving consultation. 


[1] WJP Rule-of-Law Index measures 4 principles: 1) The government and its officials and agents as well as individuals and private entities are accountable under the law; 2) The laws are clear, publicized, stable, and just; are applied evenly; and protect fundamental rights, including the security of persons and property and certain core human rights; 3) The process by which the laws are enacted, administered, and enforced is accessible, fair, and efficient; 4) Justice is delivered timely by competent, ethical, and independent representatives and neutrals who are of sufficient number, have adequate resources, and reflect the makeup of the communities they serve.
[2] AQ Social Inclusion Index uses 23 different factors to measure how effectively governments are serving their citizens, regardless of race or income, and is published annually by Americas Quarterly at the Americas Society/Council of the Americas.
[3] Hearings were scored by Global Americans on a scale of 0 to 3 to evaluate government participation. 0 indicates that the government did not send any representatives to participate. If representatives were present, they were scored from 1 to 3 based on how engaged the representatives were, 1 indicating that they objected to the hearing, to the jurisdiction of the Commission to review the topic or dismissed there being any issue to discuss. A score of 3 indicates full participation of the government, including acknowledgment of the issue and its importance, the jurisdiction of the Commission to review and engagement on how this issue will be addressed going forward.
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