A 50-strong gathering of family members, journalists and civil society organisations held vigil at the Brazilian Embassy in London this morning to urge Brazilian authorities to scale up the search for missing British journalist Dom Phillips and Brazilian Indigenous expert Bruno Araújo Pereira.
The pair were last seen early Sunday (June 5) while travelling by boat on the Itaquaí River in the northern Brazilian state of Amazonas, near the border with Peru. They had been monitoring the conflicts between the Indigenous people of the Amazon region and various commercial interests operating in the area.
The search and rescue response has been frustratingly slow with the Brazilian military saying on Tuesday they were “waiting for orders” to act and even now, four days later, the operation still needs to be extended to be effective. A Federal Justice decision issued on Wednesday ruled that Brazilian government should ‘enable the use of helicopters, boats and search teams, whether from the Federal Police, the Security Forces or the Armed Forces’ and criticised the government for their ‘omission of the duty to supervise Indigenous lands and protect isolated and recently contacted Indigenous peoples.’
The vigil was attended by Dom’s sister Sian and brother Gareth as well as journalists from The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Frontline Club and Reporters Without Borders.
Sian spoke about their love for her brother, and her brother’s love for the country of Brazil and its people, and called for ‘a persistent, deep and open investigation’.
Greenpeace UK ED Pat Venditti accompanied family members into the embassy and delivered a letter to the Brazilian Ambassador calling for a much stronger, larger, sustained search and rescue effort as well as for clarification on what exactly has been done so far.
In Greenpeace’s letter, Pat Venditti, Greenpeace UK Executive Director said:
“We remain highly concerned by reports from local partners in Brazil and statements from the Brazilian military that all necessary federal and local resources, including personnel and aircraft, have not yet been mobilised
“I echo calls from Indigenous organisations, journalists across the world, human rights and environmental civil society organisations in Brazil, the UK and beyond for the Brazilian Government to immediately mobilise all the necessary federal and local resources to find Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira.”
Carolina Pasquali, Executive Director Greenpeace Brazil, said:
“The violence against activists, social and Indigenous leaders and journalists is the consequence of a government that has been constantly promoting the economy of destruction and violating human rights in the Amazon.”
Priscilla Oliveira, research officer of Survival International, said:
“Bruno Pereira is an expert on Indigenous issues in Brazil, in particular about uncontacted people, the most threatened people on the planet. He has a profound knowledge of the Javari Valley. This wasn’t an adventure. He was working alongside the Indigenous people of the region to fill the vacuum left by years of government negligence in protecting the Javari Valley from invaders.”
The disappearance comes in the midst of deepening anti-Indigenous policy promoted by the current Brazilian government whose close relationship with the extractive industries eroding the Amazon – mining, logging and cattle ranching – has hugely increased illegal land-grabbing and violence. According to the most recent edition of the report “Violence against Indigenous Peoples in Brazil”, by the Indigenous Missionary Council, murders have increased by 61%, with 182 cases recorded in 2020, and territorial conflicts have also increased, with 96 such cases in 2020 – almost triple the rate of the previous year.
Several bills are currently being progressed through the Brazilian Congress to open up mining in Indigenous Territories and prevent the recognition of Indigenous Land Rights.
Dom Phillips has dedicated more than 20 years to covering the Amazon as a freelance journalist for The Guardian, Washington Post and others, with a particular focus on Indigenous Peoples. Bruno Araújo Pereira worked until recently for FUNAI, the Brazilian government agency responsible for indigenous issues, and headed efforts to protect uncontacted Indigenous Peoples in the Amazon. He was ousted by the Bolsonaro government.
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Images and video from the event can be downloaded and used for free at the following link: https://media.greenpeace.org/collection/27MDHUHSACTV