Status: adopted national policy

Brazil has the second oldest mechanism for the protection of human rights defenders (HRDs or defenders) which was established in 2004. The situation of human rights defenders in Brazil remains worrying, however, as Brazil is the third most deadly country for human rights defenders, according to a report from 2021. 

The Programme for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders in Brazil (PPDDH) was created at the federal level[1] in 2004. This programme was soon declared non-functioning, however, and was replaced by the National Policy for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (Política Nacional de Proteção aos Defensores de Direitos Humanos) through Decree 6044 in 2007. On the National level, the Protection Programme was placed under the responsibility of the Ministry of Women, Family and Human Rights in the Protection of Witnesses and Human Rights Defenders . However, the law meant to regulate this programme was proposed as Draft Law 4575 in 2009 and has remained pending for approval since.

In 2019, Brazil finally regulated its protection policy through Decree No. 9.937 creating a Protection Programme for Human Rights Defenders, Communicators and Environmentalists. In 2021, Law 9322/21 Creating the State Program for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders was adopted on the federal level. Currently, nine states have adopted policies for the protection of human rights defenders (select a colored state on the map on the side to see their respective legislations). Despite these many developments[2], Brazil remains a high risk area for human rights defenders as the effective implementation of these programs is lacking.

Like all countries worldwide, Brazil is monitored by the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders (who  last visited Brazil in 2005). Brazil is also closely monitored through thematic reports published by the Special Rapporteur, which can be found here. Other Special Rapporteurs, like the Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes, also include the subject of human rights defenders in their reports. Regionally, Brazil is monitored by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and more specifically through the Rapporteurship on Human Rights Defenders and Justice Operators who contributed information on human rights defenders to a country report on Brazil in 2021.

Brazil is also monitored through the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The last UPR national report on Brazil was published in 2022, but contains no information on any effort made by Brazil to protect defenders or the right to defend human rights. Many questions and worries communicated to Brazil in advance concerning human rights defenders, especially environmental defenders, remain unanswered.

CIVICUS monitor 2022 classifies Brazil as “obstructed, which means that civic space is “heavily contested by power holders, who impose a combination of legal and practical constraints on the full enjoyment of fundamental rights”. The Freedom House Democracy Index rates Brazil as “partly free. Both monitors note continuous violence against human rights defenders and the systematic targeting of journalists and civil society activists by the government. 

[1] The government of Brazil is a federal representative democratic republic. For public policies on human rights defenders, this means that a law is first to be introduced at the federal level and then needs to be adopted by state governments separately in order for them to bear the responsibility of implementing the law in their state. When a state has developed a local policy for the protection of defenders, the Human Rights Defender can submit the request directly with the local team. However, if the applicant is located in a state without a separate policy, they have to access the national programme webpage to submit their request. In this situation, the team at the federal level will be responsible for attending and monitoring the case.

[2] Find a full list of all legislation at the Federal level here:

Updated on 07/11/2022

Ministério dos Direitos Humanos e da Cidadania
MDHC The challenges for the construction of the National Plan for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders were presented this...
Justiça Global. Terra de Direitos
Justiça Global and Terra de Direitos have launched “The Beginning of the End?” (“Começo do fim?”, in Portuguese), a critical...
Government of the State of Rio de Janeiro
The legislative assembly of the state of Rio de Janeiro resolves to create the State Program for the Protection of...
Ulisses Terto Neto
Ulisses Terto Neto, a Brazilian human rights lawyer and researcher and law professor at the State University of Goiás (UEG),...
Presidência da Repúblic a Brasileira
On the 24th of July 2019, Brazil adopted Decree 9937. This decree “establishes the protection programme for human rights defenders,...
Carvalho, de Marchi Pereira de Souza, Mendonça Dias
Protection Policies for Human Rights Defenders is a publication by Human Rights Review Sur on the experiences with policies for...
Portal Camara dos Deputados
On the 29th of January 2009, the Draft Law 4575/2009 creating the Protection Programme for Human Rights Defenders was presented...
Presidência da República
On the 12th of February 2007, the government of Brasil adopted decree no. 6044, approving the National Policy on the...