Victims and survivors on Friday asked the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) to order the Brazilian State for child labor and the death of 64 workers, 22 minors, during an explosion in a fireworks factory on December 11, 1998
The IACHR, based in Costa Rica, heard Friday the testimonies of María Dos Santos, mother of a 14-year-old girl who worked in the factory and died in the explosion; as well as Leila Serqueira, survivor of the event.
“Our country has to be held responsible. I trust these judges, I know that God is on our side. We must not do justice for my daughter, nothing else, but for the whole country. I want Brazil to be condemned for lack of attention and the humiliation of 20 years, “Dos Santos declared before the judges.
The woman explained that she worked for 4 years in the factory with her daughter (who started working there at 10 years of age), but that the day of the explosion only the youngest was working.
Dos Santos detailed the precarious health and safety conditions at the Fire Factory of Santo Antônio de Jesús, in the state of Bahia, where child labor was also common.
The woman explained that the job was to make fireworks by hand at work sites similar to tents, where they had no facilities for personal hygiene or rest times.
Dos Santos commented that this type of employment was the only one that the residents of the municipality could access and that in the face of poverty.
The representative of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Jorge Meza, was in charge of presenting to the judges the accusation against the State of Brazil, to which he said he had violated the rights to life, to personal integrity, and I also lack his special duty to protect children.
The IACHR also accuses Brazil for violations of the right to work, the principle of equality and non-discrimination, as well as judicial guarantees and judicial protection, since the case remains in impunity.
“The death of the people is attributable to the State. The State knew that the factory worked with hazardous materials because it granted the respective permits. The State had, therefore, the duty to investigate and supervise the activities of the factory,” he argued. Meza
The lawsuit states that the State should know that there was one of the worst forms of child labor on the site.
According to the IACHR, this case is an opportunity for the Inter-American Court to develop jurisprudence about the international obligations of the States against high-risk labor activities, including the control and prevention, sanction and reparation of the worst forms of child labor.
After this Friday’s hearing, the parties will have one month to present their final arguments in writing, and thereafter the Court may issue a judgment at any time.