WWF-Brazil note on the murder of Dom Phillips and Bruno Araújo

16 junho 2022

​WWF-Brazil expresses its solidarity and support to the families, friends and colleagues of these forest defenders. 

By WWF-Brasil 

This Wednesday night (June, 15th), the remains of Brazilian indigenist Bruno Araújo Pereira and British journalist Dom Phillips, a contributor to The Guardian newspaper, were found in the Vale do Javari region, in the Amazon. The suspects, who are now in prison, indicated where they killed.

WWF-Brazil wishes, first of all, to express its solidarity and support to the families, friends and colleagues of these forest defenders. 

The level of violence applied to Bruno and Dom makes clear how the Amazon is at the mercy of the law of the most powerful, under which brutality is the rule. This raises our indignation at the situation in which the peoples of the forest and their defenders were left by the Brazilian State. While in official speeches "the Amazon is ours" and "we do not give up our sovereignty", in practice what we see are brutal murders without clarification or punishment, and territorial domination based on coercion and violence, by various types of criminals: drug traffickers, illegal miners, land grabbers, illegal loggers, hunters and illegal fishermen. The repeated statements by the President of the Republic that an escort is needed to travel in a region where there has been a strong military presence for many years confirms that the so-called sovereignty does not exist: the State abandoned the Amazon due to a meaningless project of destruction of the forest and extermination of its peoples.

We have seen a series of murders with impunity, or rather, with no effort or commitment by the State to investigate and punish. In the case of Dom and Bruno, there was even reluctance to start the searches. It is the government's disregard for the Amazon and the defenders of its peoples and the forest that allowed the murder of Dom and Bruno and also of countless individuals who dedicated their lives to the protection of indigenous peoples: Ari Uru Eu Wau Wau, Paulino Guajajara, Maxciel Pereira dos Santos, Zé do Lago and family. Brazil is the fourth country in the world that kills the most environmental activists, according to a survey by the NGO Global Witness. 

It is clear that in recent years all instances of protection for forest peoples and the environment have been systematically dismantled and discredited. Violence against them has increased exponentially in the last three years and nothing has been done - quite the contrary, as there is in the Federal Government, according to a study released this week, a project to destroy Funai (National Indigenous Foundation), the body that should watch over indigenous rights, and in the Congress, there are bills that further weaken the protection of these peoples.

We cannot fail to highlight that the loss of Dom and Bruno's lives is in the context of the death of the Amazon itself. In May of this year alone, the numbers of fires and deforestation broke records in the Amazon - the fires had a 184% growth compared to the average of the month of May of the last ten years and the biome lost 2,867 km of forests between January and May, breaking a record of devastation for the third year in a row. We have never been so close to the point where the forest can no longer sustain itself. The Amazon Scientific Panel has already pointed out that 17% of the forest has been deforested and another 17% is degraded. Despite this, the National Congress agenda often receives bills that favour the destruction of the largest tropical forest on the planet, on which the rainfall regime that ensures the supply of water and electricity in our country depends, and on which our agriculture relies. To kill the Amazon is to kill Brazil - a country that died a little with the murder of Bruno and Dom.

The Amazon dies every day in a cruel and inhumane way, before our eyes, as well as those who protect it, those who care for and try to keep the forest standing. Faced with this new tragedy, a rigorous investigation is necessary in order to identify if there are other people involved, given the indications of a relationship between this crime and drug trafficking in the region. It is also necessary that this case has an exemplary punishment, that they become a reference in the fight against impunity in the region, dominated by crime. No less important: the government needs to fulfil its role with concrete actions that prevent further massacres, such as the withdrawal of invaders from the Yanomami Indigenous Land, Uru Eu Wau Wau Indigenous Land, and other invaded indigenous lands. It is not acceptable that the Amazon continues to be a lawless land, without State control and action, victimizing its defenders.