Brazil ‘failing to fully investigate’ Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira murders

Rights groups accuse Brazilian government of not employing sufficient resources to examine case

Leading human rights organisations have criticised the Brazilian government for what they say is a failure to properly investigate the murders of the Indigenous activist Bruno Pereira and the British journalist Dom Phillips.

The two men were shot dead in June but eight organisations said that from the moment they disappeared, to the discovery of their bodies, to the indictment of three men for their murders, Brazilian authorities have “not employed sufficient resources to fully comprehend all the elements in the case and the responsibility of all those involved”.

The far-right government of President Jair Bolsonaro has also failed to implement measures “to prevent tragedies like those that happened to Dom and Bruno from occurring to other people who are active in the [area],” the organisations wrote in a letter to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

Promises to bolster security in the notoriously unsafe Amazonian region “have not been translated into concrete actions,” the letter, sent on 27 July but only made public this week, added.

The signatories include Article 19, Reporters Without Borders and the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism, and comes after the Bolsonaro administration said it had complied with all the commission’s requests.

Phillips and Pereira went missing on 5 June at the end of a trip in the Javari valley, a densely forested region on Brazil’s western border with Peru.

Phillips was researching a book called How to Save the Amazon and was aided by Pereira, who worked with Indigenous tribes there and knew the region well.

The pair were shot dead at the side of the Itaquai River by men who ambushed their boat as it headed towards their final destination of Atalaia do Norte.

The alleged killers had clashed with Pereira on previous occasions. A former official with Brazil’s Indigenous affairs agency, he had challenged them for fishing illegally in the areas in and around tribal reservations. They had exchanged words and the day before they were killed the accused brandished weapons as the pair passed on their boat.

Police believe Pereira was the target and Phillips was killed after he photographed the men. Pereira carried a weapon and gunfire was exchanged before the activist and guide was shot three times and Phillips once.

The killers buried their bodies in the jungle but helped police recover the remains after they were arrested. The three, all local fishers, were officially charged on 22 July.

Sign up to First Edition, our free daily newsletter – every weekday morning at 7am BST

However, local Indigenous groups claim the men were not acting alone but with the knowledge or encouragement of organised crime groups. The Javari valley area is known for illegal fishing, ranching, prospecting and logging, and drug gangs are active in the tri-border area shared by Brazil, Peru and Colombia.

Earlier this year, Indigenous organisations gave police a dossier detailing the existence of mafias in the area, and in June said “an organised group planned every detail of this crime”.

The rights groups’ letter, made public on Monday, criticised the Bolsonaro government for not investigating those links more fully. Officials have played down a broader plot involving organised crime.

The human rights organisations also criticised the government for not crediting the Indigenous groups who helped in the search and investigation efforts.


Andrew Downie

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Two new species of yeast named after Bruno Pereira and Dom Phillips
Discoveries that could help diabetics titled in honour of activist and journalist murdered in Amazon

Andrew Downie

18, Mar, 2023 @9:18 PM

Article image
Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira remembered in Lancaster exhibition
Exhibition at Halton Mill is part of a month of activities about the Amazon commemorating Phillips and Pereira

Helen Pidd North of England editor

29, Oct, 2022 @6:00 AM

Article image
Last images of Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira found on recovered phone
Photos and videos on phone found near site of men’s killing show some of their last movements in Brazilian Amazon

Tom Phillips in Rio de Janeiro

01, Jun, 2023 @12:00 PM

Article image
The Guardian view on Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira: protect people, protect the planet | Editorial
Editorial: Journalists and environmental defenders are at greatest risk in Latin America. All those who put them in danger must be held accountable


25, Jan, 2023 @6:25 PM

Article image
Bruno Pereira and Dom Phllips were killed in the Amazon. Their Indigenous allies risk death to carry on the work
The Brazilian Amazon and its Indigenous people remain under siege but a patrol group the killed activist helped form is fighting back

Tom Phillips

01, Jun, 2023 @12:00 PM

Article image
Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira will not be forgotten, vows Brazil’s Lula
President says last year’s killings were result of ‘encouragement of anarchy’ in Amazon under Bolsonaro

Tom Phillips in Rio de Janeiro

01, Jun, 2023 @1:45 PM

Article image
The disappearance of Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira – a timeline
Dom Phillips, a journalist and frequent contributor to the Guardian, set off on a trip to a remote part of the Amazon with his friend and guide Bruno Pereira to research a book. Their disappearance and murder ignited a campaign to urge Brazil’s authorities to act and shone a spotlight on the increasingly hostile environment in the world’s largest rainforest

Theresa Malone, Garry Blight and Niels de Hoog

17, Jun, 2022 @8:32 AM

Article image
Five more people arrested in Brazil over murders of Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira
Suspect already in custody is likely leader of illegal fishing mafia based in Amazon region, police say

Andrew Downie

06, Aug, 2022 @7:34 PM

Article image
Brazilian forest guardian killed weeks after joining Amazon summit
Janildo Oliveira Guajajara had recently taken part in an Amazon assembly organised by murdered Indigenous specialist Bruno Pereira

Tom Phillips in Rio de Janeiro

05, Sep, 2022 @7:02 PM

Article image
Horrifying, uplifting, surreal: my mate Dom Phillips joins the rainforest martyrs
At a Brazil memorial for murdered US activist and nun Dorothy Stang, there are two more people symbolically present

Jonathan Watts in Anapu

16, Mar, 2023 @10:44 AM