Leading human rights organisations have criticised the Brazilian government for what they say is a failure to properly investigate the murders of the Indigenous activist Bruno Pereira and the British journalist Dom Phillips.
The two men were shot dead in June but eight organisations said that from the moment they disappeared, to the discovery of their bodies, to the indictment of three men for their murders, Brazilian authorities have “not employed sufficient resources to fully comprehend all the elements in the case and the responsibility of all those involved”.
The far-right government of President Jair Bolsonaro has also failed to implement measures “to prevent tragedies like those that happened to Dom and Bruno from occurring to other people who are active in the [area],” the organisations wrote in a letter to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
Promises to bolster security in the notoriously unsafe Amazonian region “have not been translated into concrete actions,” the letter, sent on 27 July but only made public this week, added.
The signatories include Article 19, Reporters Without Borders and the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism, and comes after the Bolsonaro administration said it had complied with all the commission’s requests.
Phillips and Pereira went missing on 5 June at the end of a trip in the Javari valley, a densely forested region on Brazil’s western border with Peru.
Phillips was researching a book called How to Save the Amazon and was aided by Pereira, who worked with Indigenous tribes there and knew the region well.
The pair were shot dead at the side of the Itaquai River by men who ambushed their boat as it headed towards their final destination of Atalaia do Norte.
The alleged killers had clashed with Pereira on previous occasions. A former official with Brazil’s Indigenous affairs agency, he had challenged them for fishing illegally in the areas in and around tribal reservations. They had exchanged words and the day before they were killed the accused brandished weapons as the pair passed on their boat.
Police believe Pereira was the target and Phillips was killed after he photographed the men. Pereira carried a weapon and gunfire was exchanged before the activist and guide was shot three times and Phillips once.
The killers buried their bodies in the jungle but helped police recover the remains after they were arrested. The three, all local fishers, were officially charged on 22 July.
However, local Indigenous groups claim the men were not acting alone but with the knowledge or encouragement of organised crime groups. The Javari valley area is known for illegal fishing, ranching, prospecting and logging, and drug gangs are active in the tri-border area shared by Brazil, Peru and Colombia.
Earlier this year, Indigenous organisations gave police a dossier detailing the existence of mafias in the area, and in June said “an organised group planned every detail of this crime”.
The rights groups’ letter, made public on Monday, criticised the Bolsonaro government for not investigating those links more fully. Officials have played down a broader plot involving organised crime.
The human rights organisations also criticised the government for not crediting the Indigenous groups who helped in the search and investigation efforts.