Brazil: Urgent Request for Protest Letters

Edson Neris da Silva, 35, died in the early hours of Saturday (February 5th) after having been beaten severely by a gang of skinheads in the center of the Brazilian city of São Paulo.

According to a statement given by Dario Pereira Netto, 34--a witness and friend of the victim--the two were walking together through the Praca da Republica (a well known gay cruising area) around midnight on February 4, when a group of around 30 skinheads dressed in black closed in on them.

Feeling endangered, Silva and Netto ran off in opposite directions. Netto was attacked but managed to escape. Silva was not so lucky.

According to witnesses, who preferred not to be identified, Silva was beaten for around 20 minutes. "All you could hear was the sound of fists. After [the attackers] finished they left as if nothing had happened." The skinheads kicked Silva, struck him with chains, and punched him.

The witnesses called the police, who took Silva to a hospital. He was dead upon arrival. His head had been crushed past recognition as a result of the beatings.

Information drawn from newspaper reports indicates that police vehicles began a search of the area, and 18 members of the group were arrested in a nearby bar. A further 7 were underage and as such could not be detained by the police under Brazilian law. At the police station, the 16 men and 2 women confirmed that they belonged to a skinhead group.

One of the women was in possession of a knuckle-duster. At least five of those arrested were identified by witnesses. Later one of the arrested men reportedly admitted to having taken part in the attack.

Brazilian activists raise their voices in protest against a pattern of skinhead violence directed at blacks, homosexuals, and other minorities.

IGLHRC presumes no guilt on the part of the specific individuals detained. It urges that they receive a fair trial and a full opportunity to defend themselves. Brazilian activists, however, point to a long record of malfeasance on the part of that country's criminal justice system when gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people have been the victims of violence. A 1999 report by the Grupo Gay de Bahia documented 1661 murders of homosexuals in the previous 20 years; in only 4% of those cases did an investigation result in a criminal sentence being pronounced.

IGLHRC urges Brazilian authorities to ensure a full and fair investigation, and to punish those ultimately found responsible for this crime. IGLHRC also calls on Brazil to take active measures to promote tolerance at all levels of society, including the educational system, and to condemn and counteract an atmosphere of prejudice and hatred which can lead youth to respond to difference with murderous violence.

PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTER OF PROTEST TO:

Exmo. Sr. José Gregori
Secretário Nacional dos Direitos Humanos
Ministério da Justiça
70064-900 Brasília - DF
Tel: 55 61 218 3456
Fax: 55 61 226 7695
E-mail: direitoshumanos@mj.gov.br
Exmo. Sr. Governador Mário Covas
Palácio dos Bandeirantes
Av. Morumbi, 4500 cep 05698-900
Tel: 845-3000
Fax: 55 11 845-3301
Ilmo. Sr. Dr. Luiz Antonio G. Marrey
Promotoria de Justiça do Estado de São Paulo
Av. Libero Badaró, 600 Cep 01008-908
Tel: 233-4504/233-4503
fax: 55 11 3104-3197
Exmo. Sr. Dr. Marcos Vinício Petroluzzi
Secretaria da Segurança Pública do Estado de São Paulo
Av. Higienópolis, 758
Tel: 3823-5700
Fax: 55 11 3823-5708
Exmo. Sr. Dr. Benedito Camargo Mariano
Ouvidoria Pública do Estado de São Paulo
Av. Higienópolis, 758
Fax: 55 11 3823-5715
Exmo. Sr. Dr. Belisário dos Santos Jr.
Secretaria da Justiça e da Cidadania
Páteo do Colégio, no 148 São Paulo/SP CEP 01016-040
Fax: 55 11 3106-5181

Please send copies of your letters to:

MARCELO CERQUEIRA
C.Postal 2552
40022-260, Salvador, Bahia, Brasil
Phone/Fax: (55) 71- 328.3782/ 328.2262/ 9989.4748
email: ggb@ggb.org.br
http://www.ggb.org.br

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear Sir:

Subject: MURDER OF EDSON NERIS DA SILVA IN SÃO PAULO

We are writing to request immediate action regarding the murder of the gay man Edson Neris da Silva, beaten to death in the early hours of Saturday, February 5th in São Paulo by a group of skinheads.

We request that an in-depth investigation of the case be conducted and that those found responsible after a fair trial receive due punishment for the crime they committed. According to records kept by the Human Rights Secretary of the Brazilian Association of Gays, Lesbians and Transgender Persons (ABGLT), in 1999 alone 170 gay men and lesbians were murdered in Brazil, averaging 1 murder every 2 days. Impunity in such an environment is intolerable. It only serves to endorse hatred with an official stamp of approval, and to encourage the repetition of such brutal crimes. We also request that the witnesses to the crime be given full protection.