Legal expert says reducing Indian territory unconstitutional

Renowned Brazilian lawyer and constitutional expert José Afonso da Silva has declared that reducing indigenous land by dividing it into islands is unconstitutional.

‘The state cannot reduce or divide territory traditionally occupied [by Indians] for economic or political motives, because that would breach the constitution’, writes da Silva writes in a legal opinion commissioned by the Indigenous Council of Roraima (CIR).

Da Silva’s opinion will be presented to all ministers of Brazil’s Supreme Court, which is due to rule on the demarcation of the indigenous territory Raposa-Serra do Sol on 27 August.

If the Supreme Court rules in favour of reducing or dividing the territory, this will open a dangerous precedent. It will also mean that 18,000-20,000 Indians will lose some of their most fertile land and will be forced to live surrounded by hostile and violent farmers.

Read the legal opinion in full, in Portuguese