On 24 and 25 June 2012 the bodies of human rights defenders Mr Almir Nogueira de Amorim and Mr João Luiz Telles Penetra were found following their disappearance on 23 June 2012.
Almir Nogueira de Amorim and João Luiz Telles Penetra, or "Pituca" as he was known, were both leaders of the Associação Homens do Mar – AHOMAR (Association of Sea Men) which was set up in 2009 to defend the rights of the fisher-folk working in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and particularly those affected by the construction of a gas pipeline for Petrobras. Since the founding of the organisation its members have reported being subjected to death threats, physical attacks and killings. According to AHOMAR's members, the attacks are perpetrated by people linked to death squads, security guards hired by the companies in charge of building pipelines and militias operating in the region.
On the afternoon of 25 June 2012, João Luiz Telles Penetra's body was found on the banks of Guanabara Bay by employees of a shipyard. The fisherman's corpse was bound at his hands and feet by rope. The previous day, at around midday, the body of Almir Nogueira de Amorim was found tied to his boat. He had bruises on his neck and the boat had several holes in the hull.
On 22 June 2012, at approximately 4:00pm, Almir Nogueira de Amorim went to João Luiz Telles Penetra's home in Ilha de Paquetá, a neighbourhood in Rio de Janeiro, to collect him to go fishing. It is common practice for fishermen in the region to go at that time and return late at night or early the following day. When they had not returned by the following day, local fishermen and fire fighters began a search of the Guanabara Bay.
Almir Nogueira de Amorim was a founding member and vocal activist of AHOMAR. João Luiz Telles Penetra was the leader of the association in Ilha de Paquetá and had been a key figure in a new campaign launched by the organisation. He led the struggle against Petrobras' construction plans in Guaxindiba river, located within the Área de Proteção Ambiental Guapimirim (Environmental Protected Area of Guapimirim). The oil company wants to deepen the river to create a waterway, which would eliminate any possibility of fishing in these waters.
Almir Nogueira de Amorim and João Luiz Telles Penetra are not the first members of AHOMAR to be murdered. On 19 January 2010, fisherman and human rights defender Marcio Amaro was assassinated one day after a demonstration organised by AHOMAR took place in front of the Petrobras headquarters in downtown Rio de Janeiro. Prior to his killing Marcio Amaro had filed a formal complaint concerning the presence of unlawfully armed men in Petrobras construction sites in Guanabara Bay. On 22 May 2009 Paulo César dos Santos Souza, former treasurer of the association, was killed in front of his wife and children after being shot in the head five times. The crime occurred six hours after a government inspection decided to stop the pipeline construction due to irregularities. To date no one has been brought to justice for these killings.
The president of AHOMAR Mr Alexandre Anderson de Souza, has been under the National Protection Programme for Human Rights Defenders for the past three years. However he, and his family, still face many risks. Reportedly at least three other leaders of AHOMAR received death threats in recent months. Even with the high rate of violence in the region of Mauá and all the threats faced by human rights defenders, the only police station covering the region was shut down on 13 February 2012.
In a message., Prof. Marcelo Firpo said,“I was with two fishermen on 19 June in a meeting at Peoples´Summit discussing the impacts of big projects (basically oil, mining and steel) in Rio de Janeiro State. Three days later they disappeared when went to work. They have just been found dead. The media is considering this case without importance and we will need more national and international pressure in order to protect other people and to investigate who have killed them.” Prof. Marcelo Firpo is a partner of EJOLT (Environmental Justice Organizations, Liabilities and Trade), a European project that brings together a global consortium of activists.
Front Line Defenders, International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders believes the murder of Almir Nogueira de Amorim and João Luiz Telles Penetra is directly related to their human rights activities, in particular their work to defend the rights of the fisherfolk in Rio de Janeiro, and is seriously concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of their family members and other members of the association.