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6 Jun 2022

Brazil: After threats from miners, loggers and fishermen, journalist from The Guardian and indigenous expert disappear in the Amazon

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Funai

The disappearance of the indigenous expert Bruno Araújo Pereira and Dom Phillips, a British journalist and correspondent for The Guardian, was denounced by the Union of Indigenous Peoples of the Javari Valley (Univaja) and the Observatory of Human Rights of Isolated Indigenous Peoples and of Recent Contact (Opi) in a statement released to the press.

According to Univaja and Opi, Bruno and Dom Phillips were on an expedition through the Javari Valley, west of the Amazon, with the aim of accompanying indigenous and riverine communities far from large urban centres, which have been the target of frequent attacks. The two were last seen in the São Rafael community at around 6pm on Sunday 5 June 2022, when they were talking to the wife of the community leader known as Churrasco. The two then headed to Atalaia do Norte, where they were to visit an Indigenous Surveillance team that works near the region called Lago do Jaburu. However, neither of them reached their final destination. Since then, there has been no information regarding the location of the journalist and the researcher.

Univaja stated that Bruno Pereira is a career employee of the National Indigenous Foundation (FUNAI) and a "recognised defender of indigenous causes". In an interview with the Brazilian news portal G1, the entity stated that the indigenous activist received constant threats from loggers, miners and fishermen.

Dom Phillips, currently living in Bahia, in addition to having undertaken other expeditions with Bruno, was also writing a book on the environment and, according to The Guardian "constantly went to the region to report on the crisis in the Brazilian environment, as well as the assassination of indigenous leaders".

Updates:

Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira, known as "Pelado", was arrested for his alleged involvement in the disappearance. A witness said he saw Amarildo carrying a shotgun and making a belt of ammunition and cartridges shortly after the journalist and the researcher left the São Rafael community. According to the testimony, the suspect had already been promising to "settle accounts" with Bruno and said he would "exchange shots" with him. Other witnesses reported that Pelado used his speedboat to chase Phillips and Pereira.

Forensics found traces of gunpowder and blood on the speedboat.

On 12 June, the Federal Police and the firefighters involved in the search shared what had been found so far: a health card, black trousers, a black slipper and a pair of boots belonging to Bruno and a pair of Dom's boots. In addition, the teams found a human organ, which was identified as a stomach and sent to the National Institute of Criminalistics for analysis.

On the morning of 13 June, the wife of Dom Phillips reported that the family had been informed by the Brazilian embassy in London that the bodies of the journalist and Bruno had been found. The Federal Police and indigenous patrol teams deny the information.

On Tuesday 14 June a second suspect was arrested on suspicion of 'alleged murder'.

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