Brazil: Police Wiretapping Attorneys of Activists in Rio


Telephone conversations of at least six attorneys who act in defense of activists in Rio de Janeiro were monitored by the Civil Police in an investigation giving rise to the termination of the prosecution against 23 World Cup protesters accused of criminal association. Thiago Melo, one of the wiretapped attorneys, is parliamentary aide to state representative Marcelo Freixo (PSOL) since 2007.

Coordinator for the Institute of Human Rights Defenders (HRDs), which provides free legal advice to activists and also acts in emblematic cases of police violence in Rio, Melo said it is mandatory that a professional lawyer has confidentiality in communicating with their beneficiaries and that “violating this principal is raping democracy.”

For him the investigation of the Bureau for the Repression of Computer Crimes (DRCI) is “extremely permeated by politics. There is a trend towards criminalizing social movements and efforts to link the DDH to violence.”

In addition to wiretapping the group of attorneys the DRCI also monitored the landline of DDH (Defensores de Direitos Humanos). In a statement, police have said only that the wiretapping investigation was carried out with authorization and that the police investigation has been completed.

The Bar Association of Brazil (OAB) in Rio responded. In a statement, the authority said the confidentiality of communications between lawyer and client is inviolable by the Statute and the Law which “exist in the democratic process to safeguard the constitutional guarantees of the citizen.”

In portions of the police report, members of DDH are indicated as “ideologically aligned with political activists’ extreme actions.” Lawyer Lucas Sada, who is representing 6 of the 23 protesters said, “This attempt to criminalize DDH is illegal and has the characteristics of intimidation. We act solely to ensure the fundamental rights of the protesters.”

The HRD was described by DRCI investigators as a “sort of mothership that welcomes and supports the actions perpetrated by members of organized groups.” According to police the entity “provides a team of pompous activist lawyers to provide legal support to the rioters who are arrested in the course of violent actions in demonstrations.” The report also cites that the “Institute has notorious closeness with the PSOL.”

The president of DDH, Joao Tancredo, called the wiretapping “absurd” and said he sees politics in the actions of police. Other lawyers were quoted in the police investigation but were not all wiretapped. Professional photos taken in demonstrations and meetings were included in the investigation, as well as posts that they had shared to Facebook.

The DDH issued the following statement today denouncing the wiretapping investigation:

The Institute of Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) publicly expresses their outrage at the process of criminalization of social struggle, which has occurred in Rio de Janeiro, due to the investigation undertaken to determine the involvement of social movements, trade unions and human rights organizations in the crime of armed criminal association, provided for the sole paragraph of art. 288 of the Brazilian Penal Code. highlighting initially the entity’s commitment to human rights and, particularly, with the right to free expression and peaceful assembly, as well as acting in defense of those who are the target of institutional violence. Because of this action, we will follow with great concern the conduct of judicial proceedings no. 0229018-26.2013.8.19.0001, which is being processed in the 27th Criminal District Court of Rio de Janeiro. This is because serious violations have been committed to due process and the principle of defense and the presumption of innocence, that guide the criminal justice process.

They are: – secretive research, whose access to content is difficult – if not prevented – to the defenders of the protesters, which affected the defense thereof, violating the Constitution and the Statute Law; – The impediment, by the delegate who chaired the investigation, access to the records of the investigation to the competent Judge to hear habeas corpus filed on behalf of activists who had decreed the provisional arrest; – illegal wiretaps, authorized by the Judiciary on activists, lawyers, and media-livristas reporters, -. The availability of wiretapping and audio content of the investigation to Globo, before the defense.

Furthermore, it is worth mentioning that the aforementioned survey is one of the targets of the investigation the Office of Human Rights Defenders, which is qualified as a “mother ship” of a network of 74 other civil society organizations that campaign especially in human rights issues in Rio de Janeiro.

The investigation led to the breakdown of telephone secrecy of the entity, including the phones of two directors, constituting a grave affront to human rights and democracy. It is noteworthy that the wiretaps were authorized by the judiciary with no evidence of committing a crime, but only because the organization provides free legal assistance to arrested demonstrators during the protests, many of whom were victims of arbitrary state. , the DHD has as one of its statutory duties the performance of pro-bono advocacy on behalf of human rights and is funded by foundations, donations and private funds, not receiving any public funding, to ensure maximum independence and autonomy of the institution. Thus, the conclusions are preposterous claims that characterize the organization as subordinate to political parties or any other interest than that of the defense of a democratic society and a culture of human rights.

Photo: DDH

Photo: DDH


Defensores de Direitos Humanos (DDH)

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Erin Gallagher is a multimedia artist, translator and writer for Revolution News.