Open Letter to the Senators of the national Congress of Brazil.

Open letter from Gulnara Shahinian, UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, addressed to Senators of the National Congress of Brazil


Senators of the National Congress of Brazil;

I take the honor to write you to congratulate with important legislative initiatives that Brazil has achieved recently in fighting slavery on the level of the States. Started in San Paolo these laws laid important precedent in fighting slavery and have been already supported by the other States.

With this letter would also like to take the opportunity and share thoughts on some recent developments that are of concern to me and all those who are working to fight slavery in the modern world, as I see Brazil as the country that has developed exemplary models to fight slavery.

In 2010 when I first visited Brazil on official mission, I had opportunity to meet with many people: government officials, Senators, representatives of International agencies, civil society leaders and victims of slavery. There was unanimous agreement and hope that Constitutional Amendment PEC 57A is the law, that adopted soon will bring protection and restore justice and dignity to so many people who are victims of slavery in Brazil.
I very well remember my meeting with you Senators and excitement I felt when I saw how people’s will and political interest of country go hand in hand. I was proud to be invited to accompany the group of Senators that were taking the signatures of people from all over the country in support of this amendment to their colleagues. It was act of democracy in action and a very memorable event.

Almost three years have passed since that time and there have been many discussions on the Amendment. It is encouraging to know on the progress that meantime the amendment got support of more Senators.
I was also closely following the current debate on redefinition of the slave labour in Brazilian law. As I was mentioning earlier in my report and media statements I am in strong support to the current existing definition of Article 149, as it meets all the requirements set out in the International law, namely 1930 ILO Convention on Forced Labour and the 1957 ILO Abolition of Forced Labour Convention. It has to be additionally stressed that the definition of slave labour in the law puts in the center protection of basic rights of workers: right to freedom and right to dignified conditions of work. These are very strong values of the law. I am concerned that discussions on redefinition of slavery concepts unnecessarily slow down the adoption of the Constitutional Amendment PEC 57A, so much awaited by many men ,women and children, working slavery in agriculture.
In addition as stated in my report and during the follow up workshop held in November 2012, the problem with law is not in it’s definition of slavery, but in it’s implementation.During my meetings with government officials in Brasilia and Geneva, I have emphasized the need to stricter enforcement of the law and to enhance Federal Police actions to investigate and file criminal cases against perpetrators of slave labour.

The term of the mandate on contemporary forms of slavery is coming to an end in Spring 2014 and I would like to thank you for all the work in eradication slavery, transparency and cooperation with my mandate
Brazil has strong will and potential to eradicate slavery and provide with necessary protection to all those working as slaves through the country. These people cannot wait long. Slavery cannot be neither present, not can continue for people in Brazil. All efforts should be made to eradicate slavery and I would like to complement to all you previous and future actions address the issue and together with the Government create necessary conditions to provide all these people with freedom, protection and decent work.
In conclusion, let me reiterate my sincere willingness to stay always a great admirer and friend to the extraordinary country Brazil .

With respect,
Gulnara Shahinian
UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery.

* More information about the subject is avaiable in portuguese at



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