Region: Latin America

Number of Trials: 1

José Vargas Sobrinho Junior

The Clooney Foundation for Justice’s partner Columbia Law School is monitoring the trial of Brazilian lawyer and human rights defender José Vargas Sobrinho Junior as part of TrialWatch. In addition, a TrialWatch report on reproductive rights in Brazil found that those most likely to be prosecuted for abortion—Black and brown women from low-income communities—face significant challenges in defending themselves in court.

Brazil's Criminalization of Abortion

REUTERS/Pilar Olivares

“Criminalization of abortion–already a violation of human rights law–leads to other violations including gender and racial discrimination. This study, a timely warning to us in the U.S., shows these are not speculative harms,”

Sarah Mehta, Columbia Law School TrialWatch project director

Those most likely to be prosecuted for abortion in Brazil—Black and brown women from low-income communities—face significant challenges in defending themselves in court, according to a report by TrialWatch partners. Based on an analysis of 167 judicial decisions from 12 Brazilian courts, the report found that the women prosecuted were regularly referred for prosecution by the medical practitioners to whom they went for life-saving care. This report comes against the backdrop of efforts to further restrict the already tenuous right to abortion in Brazil, which has the highest estimated frequency of abortions in the world.

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José Vargas Sobrinho Junior

Mr. Vargas, an advocate for rural and indigenous Brazilian communities who represented victims of the 2017 Pau D’Arco massacre—in which police killed 10 land defenders—has previously faced harassment, while those arrested for alleged involvement in the massacre have yet to be brought to trial. In this case, Mr. Vargas faces various charges, including homicide, for which he could be subject to up to thirty years in prison. He has been under house arrest since January 25, 2021.

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The criminalization of abortion in Brazil has a disproportionate, discriminatory, and intersectional impact across the race and income of the girls and women.

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