Brazil: Rainforest Rescue petition leads to federal police investigation

Portrait of indigenous leader Sarapo Ka'apor wearing a feather headdress Sarapo Ka’apor (© Andrew Johnson)

Jan 13, 2023

Our petition “Brazil: The Ka’apor people need our support” has prompted the opening of an investigation by the Brazilian federal police to clarify the cause of death of Indigenous leader Sarapo Ka’apor and to identify the perpetrators. The Ka’apor people say that their leader was poisoned for resisting rainforest destruction by loggers, cattle ranchers, agribusiness and mining companies.

On December 2, 2022, the Brazilian federal police opened an investigation into the possible homicide of Indigenous leader Sarapo Ka’apor. The federal police informed us in a letter dated December 13, 2022 that their move was prompted by the petition “Brazil: The Ka’apor people need our support” and a complaint filed by Rainforest Rescue in the name of our Co-Chair Marianne Klute.

The São Luis branch of the federal agency is thus looking into the Ka’apor people’s complaint that their leader was poisoned by strangers in late May 2022. Rainforest Rescue coordinated the petition with the Ka’apor to pressure the authorities into clarifying Sarapo’s cause of death and identifying the perpetrators.

While the local police had previously exhumed Sarapo Ka’apor’s remains and performed a forensic examination, they did not pursue the investigation any further. The federal police have now issued six instructions to the relevant authorities, calling for toxicological reports and histopathological examinations, witness interviews and the prosecution of the death threats.

Further actions will now be taken by state authorities. In Brazilian criminal procedural law, the principle of officialdom applies as a procedural principle, according to which offenses are generally to be prosecuted ex officio.

We will continue to follow the investigation and coordinate additional steps with the Ka’apor as appropriate. Rainforest Rescue supports the Ka’apor Council in defending the 531,000-hectare Alto Turiaçu rainforest territory in northwestern Maranhão state, in upholding human rights and improving the living conditions of its people.

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