Indians arrive in capital for landmark land rights case

Thatching with buriti, Serra do Sol, Brazil
Thatching with buriti, Serra do Sol, Brazil
© William Milliken/Survival

Indigenous people from the Amazon state of Roraima are gathering in the Brazilian capital Brasilia today to await the Supreme Court's ruling on a key land rights case.

The Court will decide whether or not to maintain the boundaries of the indigenous territory Raposa-Serra do Sol (‘Land of the Fox and Mountains of the Sun’).

The ruling is due to start tomorrow, 10 December – the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Indigenous people will demonstrate outside the Supreme Court today and will hold a vigil there tomorrow while the judges deliberate.

Raposa-Serra do Sol was signed into law by President Lula in 2005, but a small group of powerful farmers and state politicians have petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn the recognition of the territory.

There are reports that tensions are rising in Raposa-Serra do Sol. Paulo César Quartiero, one of the famers occupying land in the indigenous territory, told a local newspaper that any Indians who attempt to enter his land will be met by 'bullets'. Quartiero has a history of violence against the Indians.

If the Court rules in favour of the farmers and reduces the size of Raposa-Serra do Sol, the Indians who live there will lose some of their most fertile land and will be permanently surrounded by hostile, armed outsiders and exposed to constant intimidation and violence. Other indigenous lands may also face legal challenges.