Justiça nos Trilhos (Justice on the Rails) has just received in Geneva, the new Human Rights and Business Award. Justiça nos Trilhos is an organisation – supported also by the Comboni Missionaries – working closely with local communities in remote parts of Brazil – including indigenous peoples, peasants, and Afro-descendants – to address human rights and environmental abuses by mining and steel companies, in particular the multinational Vale.
Mining and steel companies have polluted the rivers on which these people depend for drinking water and their livelihoods, polluted the air causing respiratory and eyesight problems, contaminated the soil with industrial waste, displaced communities, and decimated the cultures and lives of indigenous peoples.
The board members of the Human Rights and Business Award Foundation – Christopher Avery, Regan Ralph and Valeria Scorza – said in a joint statement: “We launched this annual award to recognize ‘outstanding work by human rights defenders addressing the human rights impacts of business. Justice on the Rails epitomises such a group, working rigorously and conscientiously over many years in challenging circumstances – always in close collaboration with the local communities whose fundamental rights they seek to protect.”
The human rights defenders of Justice on the Rails, and the local communities they work with, have been subjected to surveillance and retaliatory lawsuits by Vale.
Danilo Chammas, a lawyer at Justice on the Rails, has commented: “We work to reinforce the principle of human rights, which is at its core the principle of democracy. But I think we still have a long way to go. There is still a lot to do to provide real opportunities for access to justice to those whose rights are violated by these companies.”
Alexandra Montgomery, the member of the foundation’s Advisory Network who nominated Justiça nos Trilhos for the award, commented: “The day-to-day operations of Vale’s projects in Carajas have harmed more than 100 communities….Justiça nos Trilhos’ work is done in a very solid and organized fashion, accessing legal mechanisms, researching, and closely strategizing and measuring their actions. They work with university centres and professionals who research and analyse the data. The claims that they make are not spontaneous, they are grounded in the experiences of the communities.”
The Human Rights and Business Award Foundation is an independent non-profit foundation.