During the morning of 29 April, 2011, the doors to the reception hall at the headquarters of the Public Defender’s Center for Land and Housing (NUTH) were closed and locked to city residents. This local government office is responsible for defending the civil and human rights of Rio de Janeiro’s resident. Reports indicate that a security officer was placed at this location to make sure city residents could not access the office.
To the surprise of no one, the decision to lock up the reception hall came from the Pubic Defender’s Office itself, in contradiction to its stated mission to defend and protect citizen rights. This move was also supplemented by a series of other measures, which look to completely strip NUTH of any weight within Rio de Janeiro’s political and civil structure. This has been a long time coming for NUTH, as it has been declared Public Enemy #1 by public and private interest looking to remove city residents from their homes. NUTH has been one of the few organizations successfully defending the rights of forcefully removed families, but in the process has managed to ruffle the feathers of some not so supportive people within the public administration.
This move is a cause for concern, specifically because it is the marginalization of a national recognized entity, that has continually fought for the rights of all Brazilian, and their rights for fair housing and human rights. It must be mentioned that recently the work of the Public Defender’s Office, in fighting for fair housing rights, was recognized with the Tiradentes Medal, by the Commission for Human Rights, by Rio de Janeiro’s Legislative Assembly.
The slow dismantling of NUTH represents a step backwards for the protection of Human Rights, specifically in the area of access to judicial rights because it limits the public’s ability to depend on the work and efforts of the Public Defender’s Office.
The Public Defender’s Office is indispensable in the judicial process, and ultimately necessary in order to guarantee it works efficiently and effectively, as part of the judicial system. Without the Public Defender’s Office a majority of the public, who doesn’t have the financial means to defend themselves, would find themselves devoid of judicial access and support. Taking this into consideration, strengthening and guaranteeing the complete function of NUTH will strengthen and give dignity to the people of Rio de Janeiro, and Brazil.
It is with this in mind that we denounce the closing of the reception hall at NUTH’s Offices, and we ask that the office doors be open immediately. We ask this be done in the name of justice and democracy for those who need it the most.
Mariana Crioula e Terra de Direitos
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