Threats to Fernanda Giannasi and abuse of power of the exploiters of asbestos in Brazil
Fernanda Giannasi is an auditor in the Ministry of Labor in Sao Paulo, Brasil. Since the 80s, Giannasi struggles against exploitation and use of asbestos, carcinogenic mineral and extremely harmful to health. Despite asbestos being banned in industrial processes in 51 countries, the Brazilian government has not yet taken a definitive position against the use and trade of the fiber at the national level. According to Fernanda Giannasi, several studies show that there is not a safety limit for exposure to this product. Therefore, her major concern is the health of those who work for the exploration industries of asbestos and also those that could come into contact with the product which in Brazil is used in the construction of water reservoirs, tiles and pipes, for example.
In retaliation for her struggle, Giannasi received anonymous letters with death threats and suffered numerous criminal and civil law suits by companies extracting asbestos. Despite being a struggle with international recognition, Giannasi doesn’t have any kind of government support. Her name was allegedly included in the list of The National Program for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, but this has not been officially confirmed, except for the fact that an e-mail was sent to the Brazilian Network for Environmental Justice RBJA.
Asbestos is a proven carcinogen which is directly responsible for the death of many asbestos workers, has been banned in 66 countries, and which in Brazil has been banned in four states as well as in a number of our counties and municipalities and capital cities. Nevertheless, the Federal Executive Power has not yet taken a definitive position against the use and sale of asbestos fiber nationally, even after the historic decision of the Federal Supreme Court (STF) which on June 4, 2008, which gave its sanction to the law of the State of São Paulo banning asbestos, and thus reversed previous judicial findings which had prohibited states from passing legislation which was more restrictive than federal legislation.
Brazil is one of the greatest producers, consumers, and exporters of asbestos in the entire world. It is used in almost 3,000 industrial products, among which asbestos-cement roof tiles and water tanks, which are bought and used by people from the low-income sectors of the population, who experience the greatest levels of exposure and thus the highest risks of contamination.
To resolve this difficult situation, the Brazilian Association of People Exposed to Asbestos (ABREA) and a few dedicated people who are highly qualified to deal with asbestos, have fought to expose and denounce the continuation of a reality which constitutes an attack on people’s health and life---especially on the health and lives of the poor. Members of ABREA and their allies have suffered from constant attempts to isolate, silence, threaten, intimidate, persecute, and criminalize their campaigns to bring justice to asbestos victims and to ban asbestos. These attempts have already been highlighted in the report “On the Front Line: Defenders of Human Rights in Brazil, 2002-2005,” which was prepared and written by the groups Global Justice and Terra de Direitos (Land of Rights) http://fdcl-berlin.de/fileadmin/fdcl/Publikationen/relatoriodefensores20...
In addition to these last facts, there is a long history of threats and aggressions against Fernanda Giannasi because of her professional and social engagement on the side of the victims of asbestos. Among these are a number of criminal, civil, and administrative actions initiated by companies which have been exploiting and manufacturing asbestos products over the past three decades. These companies—which have constituted themselves into the Brazilian Chrysotile Institute (IBC) constitute a powerful lobby, comparable only to the tobacco lobby in size and economic power. In fact the IBC has been able to overturn a law creating the Social Organization in the Public Interest (OSDIP), in a demonstration of its power to overcome the bounds of regulation. We must ask ourselves: in the name of what public interest has the IBC been able to attack Fernanda Giannasi to the Commission on Ethics of the Ministry or Labor and Employment?
In their most recent actions in which they attempt criminalize her work; there have been repeated attempts to remove Fernanda Giannasi from her function as an inspector in the Regional Superintendence of Labor in São Paulo. Take, for example, the attempt of SAMA, of the ETERNIT management group, to file a complaint regarding Inspector Giannasi in the 14th Federal Branch in Brasília (Trial No. 53186-06.2010.4.01.3400), which attempts to “REMOVE SAFETY INSPECTOR ‘FERNANDA GIANNASI’ FROM CARRYING OUT INSPECTIONS OF THE AUTHOR OF THIS COMPLAINT [SAMA] IN REGARD TO OPERATIONS WHICH CONCERN ASBESTOS” and which fortunately had its complaint disallowed.
The companies Transportadora (Transporter) Cortes Ltda. and Cortes Armazéns (Warehouse) in City of Guarujá, who are responsible to ship 65% of Brazilian asbestos production, also attempted to remove Inspector Giannasi from her official duties, so they could act in open defiance of the law in the São Paulo, a state which bans asbestos.
At first these asbestos companies were successful in their lawsuit with the Federal Court of the City of Santos, which ruled safety engineer Giannasi should abstain from inspection the properties of the company because of her involvement in the social struggle to eradicate the carcinogenic fiber, alleging “a lack of impartiality in her actions.” However, that decision was overturned in the Regional Federal Tribunal of the 3rd Region of São Paulo, (Decision No. 7642/2010 in DAMAGE TO INSTRUMENT No. 0000023-72.2010.4.03.0000/SP filed by the Federal Union).
Dissatisfied with the judicial defeats mentioned above, the companies who are involved in the exportation of asbestos have once again sought protection first of all in the Federal Justice of Santos, which requested that the Federal Police open an investigation--- (IPL no. 5-1217/09-DPF/STS/SP) to investigate possible deviations in conduct by a public servant for “abuse of power”. Unfortunately, the local police authority, Dr. Cassio Luis Guimarães Nogueira, was fooled into error by the companies which accused the public servant, even though he had been informed about the decision of Regional Federal Tribunal.
It became clear that even though they were not totally successful in their goals, the asbestos companies have been able to utilize its charges as a trump card to play against the impeccable conduct of public servant Giannasi, who has been able to constantly prove the illegal acts committed by these companies.
Now is the time for the Federal Public Prosecutor of Santos to carry out an analysis of the conclusions reached by the police inquest and to decide whether or not to indict Engineer Giannasi. If this happens Fernanda Giannasi will be obliged to appear before the court to defend herself against the unjust and frivolous accusations of the asbestos lobby, which is extremely eager to maintain her far away from their activities. Defending herself costs time and energy, and forces her to use up more resources, diverting Fernanda Giannasi from her work as a safety inspector and from her project of eradicating asbestos from the state of Sao Paulo.
In the face of these treats we, the people and organizations united in the Brazilian Environmental Justice, stand firm:
We hope that the Ministry of Labour will support her devoted public servant and will guarantee continuity to her work, which earns dignity and respect for her profession of safety engineer and when it follows up on complaints related to asbestos by disciplining those companies which are destroying the health of the workers and their families.
We strongly encourage the Secretariat of Human Rights of the Office of the President of the Republic (SDH/PR) to pay full attention to this case, and that it marshal all possible means and mechanisms at its disposal for the protection of Fernanda Giannasi, and that the Secretariat pay a great deal attention to issues related to the exposure to asbestos, uranium, agricultural poisons, and other agents and activities which profoundly affect people and communities surrounding the workplaces in question, to help guarantee the elemental right of these communities and people to a safety and balanced environment.
We also ask that the Federal Police prove true to its constitutionally defined mission and open up inquiries and investigations regarding the threats we have detailed in this document, and that it will be able to identify and investigate the people responsible for the threats to Citizen Fernanda Giannasi.
If necessary we hope that the Federal Police will bring in Interpol, if necessary, to help with the investigation. Interpol has already been advised of the existence of threatening letters from anonymous authors, letters which constitute an assault to human dignity.
We request that the Federal Prosecutor, as the guardian of democracy, carry out an investigation of the facts we have presented and take the appropriate measures to arrive at a solution to this case.
When dealing with certain businesses and certain sectors of society who have a personal interest in the perpetuation of the use of asbestos, who will not hesitate to manipulate research data to prove their case, who engage in job blackmail and threats to eliminate jobs, to the actual attempt to make criminals out of those question the use of asbestos and who even resort to violence…we solemnly reaffirm our total commitment to a total ban of asbestos and our total solidarity with Fernanda Giannasi and the victims of this deadly product.
By sending this letter (sample letter to send below), you can report the situation and ask the Brazilian authorities to take appropriate measures according to the case.
In the PDF file posted at the end of this page, you can read the letter sent by the CDHAL (June 2, 2011).
****Model letter to send ****
Através desta carta, estou escrevendo para você porque eu estou muito preocupado(a) sobre as ameaças sofridas por Fernanda Giannasi (auditora-fiscal do Ministério do Trabalho e Emprego em São Paulo).
- Segundo informações divulgadas pelo CDHAL, Fernanda Giannasi, uma forte liderança na luta pelo banimento do amianto no Brasil, tem recebido ameaças de morte através de cartas anônimas assim como vários processos criminais, civis e administrativos impetrados por empresas que exploram e manufaturam produtos de amianto no país. Esses processos têm como intuito afastar Fernanda Giannasi de suas funções como auditora pelo simples fato de ter cumprido o seu trabalho: constatar, denunciar e se opor às condições sanitárias dos trabalhadores que exploram amianto.
- Dentre as mais recentes ações em busca de removê-la de sua função na auditoria-fiscal na Superintendência Regional do Trabalho em São Paulo, houve o processo ajuizado pela SAMA, do grupo empresarial ETERNIT, na 14ª. Vara Federal de Brasília (Processo 53186-06.2010.4.01.3400), que busca “AFASTAR A AUDITORA FISCAL DO TRABALHO ‘FERNANDA GIANNASI’ DA FISCALIZAÇÃO DA AUTORA NO TOCANTE ÀS OPERAÇÕES CONCERNENTES AO AMIANTO” e que, felizmente, teve no dia 18/03/2011 a tutela antecipada requerida indeferida.
- As empresas Transportadora Cortes Ltda. e Cortes Armazéns do Guarujá buscaram também afastar Fernanda Giannasi de sua função e obtiveram êxito junto à Justiça Federal de Santos em primeiro momento. A justiça determinou que a engenheira se abstivesse de inspecionar as dependências da empresa, devido ao seu envolvimento social na luta pela erradicação da fibra e sobre a alegação de “falta de imparcialidade em suas ações”. Contudo, tal decisão foi reformada no Tribunal Regional Federal da 3ª. Região de São Paulo (Decisão 7642/2010 em AGRAVO DE INSTRUMENTO nº 0000023-72.2010.4.03.0000/SP impetrado pela União). Não satisfeitas com as derrotas obtidas nas instâncias superiores do Judiciário, as empresas dedicadas à exportação do amianto buscaram novamente amparo na primeira instância da Justiça Federal de Santos, que solicitou à Polícia Federal que instaurasse inquérito (IPL nº. 5-1217/09-DPF/STS/SP) para apurar possível desvio de conduta da servidora pública. Infelizmente, a
- autoridade policial local, Dr. Cássio Luis Guimarães Nogueira, foi levado a erro pelas empresas impetrantes e indiciou a servidora, mesmo informado sobre a decisão do Tribunal Regional Federal. Resta agora ao Ministério Público Federal de Santos analisar a conclusão do inquérito policial e decidir se denuncia ou não a servidora. Se isto ocorrer, Fernanda Giannasi terá mais uma vez de ir ao Juízo para se defender das injustas e levianas acusações do lobby do amianto.
Diante da gravidade dessa situação, pedimos com urgência:
- Que o Ministério do Trabalho respalde Fernanda Giannasi, no sentido de garantir a continuidade de seu trabalho, que dignifica a sua profissão e dá pleno sentido à fiscalização pública quando denuncia o amianto e as empresas que destroem a saúde dos trabalhadores e das suas famílias.
- Um acompanhamento atento desse caso por parte da Secretaria de Direitos Humanos da Presidência da República (SDH/PR), disponibilizando todos os meios e mecanismos necessários à proteção de Fernanda Giannasi, principalmente através da sua integração ao Programa Nacional de Proteção aos Defensores dos Direitos Humanos.
- Pedimos também à Polícia Federal que, fiel à sua missão constitucional, instaure os procedimentos necessários para que seja feita uma investigação sobre as ameaças denunciadas aqui, no sentido de identificar seu(s) autor(es) e assegurar a devida proteção à cidadã Fernanda Giannasi.
- Solicitamos ao Ministério Público Federal a apuração dos fatos relatados e as devidas providências no encaminhamento, acompanhamento e solução do caso.
- Esperamos a aplicação do que foi disposto pela Declaração sobre os Defensores dos Direitos Humanos da ONU, em particular os seguintes artigos: Artigo 1 º: "Toda pessoa tem o direito, individualmente e coletivamente, de promover e garantir a proteção e realização dos direitos humanos e liberdades fundamentais a nível nacional e internacional", Artigo 5 º: "Para promover e proteger os direitos humanos e das liberdades fundamentais, todos têm o direito, individualmente e coletivamente, nacional e internacionalmente: a) à atender ou reunir, pacificamente, b) à formar organizações, associações ou grupos não-governamentais, e juntar-se ou participar delas; Artigo 12.2: "O Estado garante a proteção pelas autoridades competentes de toda pessoa, individual ou coletivamente, contra toda violência, ameaça, retaliação, discriminação, de negação de fato ou de direito, pressão ou qualquer outra ação arbitrária dos legítimos os direitos referidos na presente Declaração
- De uma maneira geral, assegurar o respeito pelos direitos humanos e liberdades fundamentais em todo o país, em conformidade com as normas internacionais de direitos humanos ratificados pelo Brasil.
Gostaría de receber uma lista escrita das ações a serem empreendidas no caso.
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Ministro da Justiça José Eduardo
Vice Procuradora-Geral da Republica
Deborah Macedo Duprat de Brito Pereira
Secretaria de Políticas para Mulheres
Consulado do Brasil em Montreal
Secretaria de Direitos Humanos
Comité pour les droits humains en
Amérique latine – CDHAL