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Concentration of income and violation of civil rights

Center for Studies of Violence will analyze the Relation between violence and poverty and impunity

The Center for Studies of Violence of the University of São Paulo (USP) will increase its research work developed over 12 years by the Nucleus for Studies of Violence. During this period, the Nucleus won national and international recognition for its studies on human rights in Brazil. It also achieved prominence for its part in the formulation of the National Program for Human Rights and for its denunciation of human rights’ abuses to international bodies.

The first proposed challenge for the 25-head research team that makes up the Center is, since the transition to democratic government to cross check the information on the abuse of civil and political rights in São Paulo against the indicators for economic and social rights. “Today, it is clear that we have to evaluate what is regarding poverty and unemployment. For a society with a formidable income concentration, the practice of civil and political rights is precarious”, argues Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, the Center’s director.

The second task of the team will be to analyze the basis for public law and order in São Paulo since the 19th century to the present. “Our objective is to understand the policies as they relate to correctional centers and prisons and this is going to require an examination of the legislation and its translation into resulting concrete practices”, says Pinheiro.

The third line of research will be to look into the growing process of impunity in the country. “In Brazil, at least a half of those who commit murder remain unknown to the authorities, a reflection of the system of police investigation and the form in which legal proceedings are processed by the Judiciary”, he declares.

The fourth objective is to conduct practical experiments in some communities using as a model, the law and order contracts representing a partnership between the government and the community. In a selected area, community agents will be identified, firstly to act as mediators in conflicts where pacific solutions will be sought and secondly, to improve the relations between the police and the community. “The majority of murders are for frivolous reasons, such as bar or street brawls. We cannot wait for the social situation to improve, and then pacify this hostile environment”, Pinheiro explains. This proposal develops into the project Observatory of Human Rights/Radars for Human Development, a collection of reports on citizenship, whose goal will be to maintain society informed when its rights are being abused. “We will make the statistics that are produced by the various organs available to the public with the object of strengthening the communities’ participation in their own affairs”, says Pinheiro.

Finally, the Center intends to produce an integrated theory of Human Rights, using seminars and conferences, maintaining the line of undergraduate courses to university students as well as keeping the close relation that has been built up during these years with the community.

According to an international member of the selection board responsible for classification of the proposals, “the way in which people in Brazil, particularly those at the lower level of the social ladder, are precariously served by the legal system, has to be studied, made public and thus result into the opening of channels for programs of legislation and reform. The concepts of Human Rights and rules of law provide a good structure for this work”.

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