(frontlinedefenders.org) On Monday 28 February 2011, the body of human rights defender Mr Sebastião Bezerra da Silva was discovered buried on a farm in the municipality of Dueré, Tocantins State. Sebastião Bezerra da Silva was the west-central region’s coordinator of the Movimento Nacional de Direitos Humanos (National Human Rights Movement) and a member of the Comissão de Direitos Humanos do Tocantins (Tocantins Human Rights Commission).
It is reported that upon being discovered, Sebastião Bezerra da Silva’s body showed signs of torture, including several broken fingers and toes, as well as evidence that he had been beaten over the head with a blunt object, and that sharp objects had been stuck under his nails. The cause of death, however, is reported to have been asphyxia through strangulation.
Sebastião Bezerra da Silva was last seen on the morning of 26 February 2011. He had reportedly left the hotel in which he was staying in Gurupi, in the south of Tocantins, to get lunch before disappearing. Neither the car in which he was traveling nor his possessions have been found.
Subsequent to his disappearance, Sebastião Bezerra da Silva’s family received a number of calls in which an unidentified man stated that Sebastião Bezerra da Silva had run away with a lover, in what appears to have been an attempt to discredit the human rights defender and cover the tracks of those responsible.
As part of his human rights work, Sebastião Bezerra da Silva was involved in investigations into the use of extrajudicial killings, torture and ill-treatment by the Brazilian police. The week of his disappearance saw the exoneration of the last among a group of local police officers who Sebastião Bezerra da Silva had accused of torture and attempted murder. Prior to his disappearance, Sebastião Bezerra da Silva had reportedly received numerous death threats via telephone, in which he was warned that his time was coming and that he should take care of his family.
Front Line believes that the murder of Sebastião Bezerra da Silva was directly related to his legitimate and peaceful work in defence of human rights, and is gravely concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of his family and members of the Movimento Nacional de Direitos Humanos.
Front Line urges the authorities in Brazil to:
1. Carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the murder of human rights defender Sebastião Bezerra da Silva, with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;
2. Take measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of Sebastião Bezerra da Silva’s family and members of the Movimento Nacional de Direitos Humanos;
3. Guarantee in all circumstances that human rights defenders in Brazil are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.