Authorities in Brazil have charged three men with “double aggravated homicide and concealment of a body” following the disappearance last month of British journalist Dom Philips and Brazilian indigenous expert Bruno Pereira.
Amarildo da Cosa Oliveira, Oseney da Costa de Oliveira and Jefferson da Silva Lima were prosecuted for crimes committed in the Javari Valley, according to a statement released this Friday by the Federal Prosecutor’s Office.
Veteran journalist Phillips and indigenous expert Pereira disappeared on June 5 during a trip to the western edge of Amazonas state. Their deaths in the remote region have drawn global attention to the dangers journalists and environmental activists often face in Brazil.
A federal court judge in Amazonas lifted the confidentiality of the details of the case on Thursday.
Amarildo and Jefferson allegedly confessed to the crime in June, and Amarildo led authorities to the bodies. However, Oseney’s involvement was established through witness statements, according to the US attorney’s office.
“There were already records of disagreements between Bruno and Amarildo over illegal fishing in indigenous territory,” the statement said.
“What motivated the murders was the fact that Bruno had asked Dom to photograph the defendants’ boat,” he alleged.
It was insinuated that Pereira had been the target of the crime, while Philips “was killed just for being with Bruno”, to “guarantee impunity for the previous crime”, the statement said.
Phillips and Pereira were conducting research for a book project on conservation efforts in the region, which authorities have described as “complicated” and “dangerous” and known to be home to illegal miners, loggers and international drug traffickers.
They were last seen in the community of Sao Rafael, a two-hour boat ride from the city of Atalaia do Norte, after accompanying an indigenous patrol on the Itaquaí River organized to prevent invasions by illegal fishermen and hunters on Earth. Indigenous of the Javari Valley.
According to reports, they had received death threats a few days before their disappearance.
Between 2009 and 2019, more than 300 people were killed in Brazil amid conflicts over land and resources in the Amazon, according to Human Rights Watch, citing figures from the Pastoral Land Commission, a nonprofit affiliated with the Catholic Church.
And in 2020, Global Witness ranked Brazil the fourth most dangerous country for environmental activism, based on documented killings of environmental defenders. Nearly three-quarters of such attacks in Brazil took place in the Amazon region, he said.