Investigation into killings of uncontacted Indians

November 30, 2005

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In one of the biggest operations of its kind, over a hundred Brazilian federal police arrested eighteen people for crimes against Indians and the environment yesterday.

Operation Rio Pardo is investigating allegations of killings of members of an uncontacted tribe, known as the Rio Pardo Indians. In the last decade their land has been invaded by land grabbers and logging companies. The police have issued seventy arrest warrants and ninety search warrants in seven states.

In a race against time, FUNAI, the government's Indian affairs department, has two teams in the Rio Pardo area trying to make contact with the Indians. This week Brazilian TV showed the first images of one of the Indians filmed by the team. The Indian man was cutting a tree trunk in search of honey and was accompanied by two women. After a brief moment they disappeared into the forest. Nothing is known about the Indians – not even the language they speak or what tribe they belong to.

This is the first official 'sighting' of the tribe and proves that some are still alive. In the last month FUNAI has also found a number of abandoned temporary camps, with food and possessions – clear evidence that the Indians are on the run. FUNAI believes that land grabbers and loggers are intent on wiping out the Indians so they can take over their land. The territory has had a protection order placed on it, but has not been officially mapped out and recognised as Indigenous. Logging companies are ignoring the protection order and continue clearing the land.

Survival's director Stephen Corry said today, ‘The total destruction of a tribe, however small, is genocide. The land of the Rio Pardo Indians must be recognised and protected now, or their annihilation will be complete.'

For more information call Miriam Ross on +44 20 7687 8734 or email [email protected]

Rio Pardo