In Defense of Paulo Abrão, Brazilian and International Human Rights Advocate
Human rights activists in Brazil, other parts of Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe, and the United States were shocked to learn last week that Luiz Almagro, the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), decided not to renew the contract of Paulo Abrão, the Executive Director of the Inter-American Commission on Human Right (IACHR). Since assuming the position in 2016, Abrão led the Commission out of a financial crisis and offered leadership in actively promoting human rights throughout the region. In January 2020, the Commission voted unanimously to extend Abrão’s contract for an additional four years. Rather than following the established procedures of the Commission as outlined in Article 21 of the 1979 IACHR Statute, the Secretary General violated the commission’s autonomy and arbitrarily refused to recognize the contact. One can only understand this measure to terminate Abrão’s tenure at the IACHR as an effort by political forces within the OAS to undermine the independence and the effective work of the Commission in defending future human rights work in the Americas and defending democracy in the region.
Prior to working with the IACHR, Paulo Abrão served in the Brazilian government as the National Secretary of Justice, the President of the National Committee for Refugees, and the President of the National Committee Against Human Trafficking in the Brazil. He was also the former Executive Secretary of the MERCOSUR Human Rights Institute, based in Buenos Aires. Among Brazilian human rights activists, he is most widely known for his dynamic, energetic, and creative work as the President of the Brazilian Amnesty Commission, which included processing over indemnification 65,000 cases of those persecuted by the military regime and organizing over 89 Amnesty Caravans throughout Brazil. Unfortunately, under the current Brazilian government, the work of the Amnesty Commission has essentially been suspended.
The U.S. Network for Democracy in Brazil is a democratic, decentralized, non-partisan organization committed to (1) educating the U.S. public about the current situation in Brazil; (2) defending social, economic, political, and cultural advances in Brazil; and (3) supporting social movements, community organizations, NGOs, universities, and activists, etc., who are vulnerable in this new political climate. We regret this arbitrary and unjust measure taken by the Secretary General of the OAS, but we are confident that Paulo Abrão will quickly find new avenues to fight for human rights and social justice.