UN rights experts: Brazil anti-terrorism law may restrict freedoms

UN rights experts: Brazil anti-terrorism law may restrict freedoms

[JURIST] Several independent UN human rights experts said [press release] Wednesday that a recent Brazilian draft law may infringe upon civil rights in its efforts to counteract terrorism. The bill [materials, in Portuguese] was approved by the Brazilian Senate last month. The legislation broadly defines [Rio Times report] a terrorist act as one which “infringes upon persons, through violence or serious threat, and is motivated by political extremism, religious intolerance or racial, ethnic, gender or xenophobic prejudice, in order to cause widespread panic.” Terrorists may receive a sentence of up to 30 years in prison depending on the severity of their crimes. The bill stirred public interest groups after the drafters removed a clause that would have exempted political, religious and civil movements. While Senators acknowledged the importance of maintaining civil rights, they also argued that potential terrorists may use such movements as a guise for their own agenda. UN experts and various human rights organizations are concerned that the bill may be deliberately misused to criminalize acts of free expression. The experts further stressed that states are obligated to respect fundamental civil rights when constructing security bills that may endanger such freedoms. The lower house must review [AA report] the bill’s amendments made by the Senate before presenting the legislation to the president.

Many nations have passed anti-terrorism laws in recent years that have been criticized by the UN and other advocacy groups. Last month UN Special Rapporteur Ben Emmerson expressed concern [JURIST report] that many nations have used counter-terrorism as an excuse to restrict public assembly and stop the activities of public interest groups. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi [BBC profile] approved [JURIST report] a 54-article counter-terrorism law in August, which has been met with significant controversy as many believe it to be an infringement on freedom of the press. Tunisia’s parliament voted to approve a new anti-terror law despite strong criticism [JURIST report] from NGOs and human rights groups in July. In January Amnesty International [advocacy website] called on [JURIST report] Pakistan to stop sentencing people for violation of the 1997 Anti-Terrorism Act, which they described as “so vague that almost all crimes fall under [its] definition.”