President of the Brazilian Olympic Committee Arrested for Corruption

By: Fernando Oliveira
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – On October 5th, 2017, Carlos Arthur Nuzman, the Brazilian Olympic Committee president, and his right-hand man, Leonardo Gryner, the general director of the Rio 2016 Organizing Committee, were arrested by Brazil’s federal police. Both were allegedly involved in a voting-buying scandal that supposedly allowed Rio de Janeiro to host the 2016 Olympic Summer Games.

Brazilian Olympic Committee president Carlos Nuzman is escorted from the federal police headquarters in Rio de Janeiro. Photograph courtesy of Bruno Kelly/Reuters.

According to Brazilian federal prosecutors, Nuzman and Gryner controlled a complex criminal organization which, in 2009, “bought” Lamine Diack’s vote to bring the Olympics to Rio de Janeiro. Indeed, the investigation has found several emails showing that Lamine Diack, a former IOC member from Senegal, received at least $2 million for promising to vote for Rio de Janeiro’s candidacy during the poll held in Copenhagen in October 2009.

Nuzman, who is now 75 years old, was a Brazilian volleyball player who represented the national team from 1962 to 1968. Later on, he became head of the Brazilian Volleyball Confederation, from 1975 until 1995.  Since 1995, he has been BOC’s president. According to investigators, in the last 10 years, his assets have grown more than 450%.

Additionally, investigators discovered that Nuzman concealed sixteen 1kg gold bars in a Swiss bank, which led federal prosecutor Fabiana Schneider to declare:

“While Olympic medalists chased their dreams of gold medals, leaders of the Brazilian Olympic Committee stashed their gold in Switzerland.”

The ongoing investigation, called “Unfair Play,” brought evidence that Nuzman and Gryner are involved in corruption, money laundering, and conspiracy.

Nuzman’s lawyer, Nelio Machado claimed that Nuzman’s arrest is wholly unnecessary, and constitutes a vehement flaw, mostly because it is clear that the election of Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Olympic Games strictly followed the rules.

For more information, please see:

Reuters – Brazil police arrest Olympic committee chief in vote-buying scandal – 05 October 2017

New York Times – Brazil’s Olympic Committee President Arrested for Corruption – 05 October 2017

ABC News – President of Brazilian Olympic Committee arrested – 05 October 2017

Folha de São Paulo – Brazilian Police Arrest Olympics Chief Carlos Nuzman in Alleged Vote-Buying Scheme – 05 October 2017

Brazilian Building Codes in Need of Reform in Wake of 17 Deaths

by Emilee Gaebler
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America 

BRASÍLIA, Brazil – A twenty-story building’s collapse in Rio de Janeiro has sparked intense scrutiny of the state of the construction industry in the country set to host two mega sporting events on the world stage over the next few years.

Firefighters on site of the building collapse in Rio's historic theater district. (Photo courtesy of CBS)

Seventeen people in total were killed in the building’s collapse and three are still missing, as reported by the Washington Post.  The building collapsed at night, around 8:30 pm, which helped to minimize the casualties and injuries.  As the building collapsed it also pulled down two neighboring smaller structures.  The buildings were located in the historic theater district of Rio.

Officials are citing illegal construction as the most plausible explanation, although investigations are still underway.  It is alleged that two illegal construction projects were underway on the 16th floor of the building.  Luiz Cosenza, a worker in the building, claims to have been employed on one of those illegal jobs.

Cosenza states that the project was not registered with the building council and that there was no authorized and licensed professional overseeing the work.  He declined to provide further information on what type of work was being done illegally.

The current upswing in construction in Rio has steadily continued as the city prepares to host the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics.  FIFA officials have expressed concerns that the city’s infrastructure is not prepared to handle hosting these two events.

Those who are critical of Rio’s ability as host city note the pressing need to restructure industry standards.  The high demand for new buildings, in the downtown area, has led to lax standards and often sub-standard construction.

“Some firms will have the budget to do everything to a good standard employing Rio’s top professionals, but all too often these are secondary considerations for those looking to do things fast or cheaply,” said Gordon Lewis, a commercial developer in Brazil, to the Rio Times.

A call for more stringent monitoring has been spurred on by the recent tragic collapse.  Officials are in the process of enacting a mandatory periodic review of all buildings.  The review will need to be conducted by a professional who will assess and ensure the structural integrity of the building.

Historically, Brazil has struggled with maintaining a strong infrastructure in construction.  Not only are new buildings going up without the proper safety mechanisms but historic buildings are also structurally unsafe due to disrepair.

As well, the strict civil codes require such exacting compliance that it is impossible for any builder to meet them.  This has led to the general practice of those codes being disregarded and no enforcement of them by municipal authorities.


For more information, please see;

The Washington Post – Building Collapse, Rash of Freak Accidents Raise Questions About Rio’s World Cup Readiness – 1 February 2012

The Rio Times – Rio Responds to Building Collapses – 31 January 2012

BBC – Six Dead After Rio de Janeiro Building Collapses – 27 January 2012

CBS – Brazil: 3 Killed as Building Collapses in Rio – 26 January 2012

Favela Poor Forced Out Of Homes For World Cup and Olympics in Brazil

By Emilee Gaebler
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

BRASILIA, Brazil– Preparations for hosting the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics are in full swing.  As the Brazilian government works hard to improve the infrastructures of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro thousands are being forced out of their homes.

Berenice Maria das Neves evicted from her home
Berenice Maria das Neves evicted from her home. (Photo Courtesy of BBC News)

The communities that are bearing the brunt of these “urbanization” projects are Brazil’s poorest, the favelas.  In Rio de Janeiro, those living in the favelas in the Zona Norte (North Zone) and Zona Oueste (West Zone) are being relocated to make way for new roadways and new buildings.

Berenice Maria das Neves, a resident of one of the favelas leveled in Rio de Janeiro was forced out in late May.  She received a summons in the mail to appear at City Hall and once there was told her house had been condemned.  She was given a check for 8,000 reais (US $5000) as compensation and her home was a pile of rubble before she even returned from City Hall. 

She now faces the challenge of finding a new home, which will be quite the challenge as, “[w]hat use is 8,000 reais?  I’d need at least four times as much to find a house to buy” she says.

Carlos Nuzman, the chairman for the Rio Olympics organizing committee, points to the rehousing programs to justify these forced evictions.  The three programs; “Vila Nova Chocolatão,” “Growth Acceleration Program” and “Minha Casa, Minha Vida” center on the development of housing projects for low income families in the suburbs of the cities but the projects are far from the city center.  Those who do take up residence are forced to live 30 miles or more from where they work.

Human rights groups, monitoring the forced evictions in the favelas, are concerned.  Many express worries that this process is simply a ruse; that Brazil is using the World Cup and Olympics as an excuse to push the poor out of the city centers and free-up land for developers to make profits off of. 

A local councilor, Eliomar Coelho, said, “[t]his is a clear example of how the government treats the poor.  A big opportunity has been missed.  Instead of being better off as a result of the boom, these people will end up worse off.  It’s a complete violation of their human rights.”

Also disturbing, is the growing number of reports that the militia has taken advantage of the relocation situation.  These reports indicate that the militia is forcing newly relocated families out of their low-income houses and then putting the houses up for sale.


For more information, please see;

Global Issues –Brazil: More Community Input Needed In Relocation of Favelas – 5 July 2011

Prospect Journal of International Affairs at UCSD – Human Rights Abuses in Brazil’s Favelas in Preparation for World Cup and Olympics: Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo – July 2011

BBC News – Rio Olympics: Favela Poor Evicted as City Spruced Up – 30 June 2011

The Rio Times – Minha Casa, Minha Vida Phase Two – 21 June 2011

The Rio Times – Favelas Moved for World Cup and Olympics – 10 May 2011

Police Violence in Rio Slums

Photo Courtesy of AP
Photo Courtesy of AP

By Sovereign Hager

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

RIO DE JANIERO, Brazil-Brazil’s police are being criticized for their response to a violent incident in a slum that left eight people dead. During a routine patrol in the city’s northern zone the police called in reinforcements after they came under fire.

The police response led to what is considered to be one of the worst outbreaks of violence since October, when drug traffickers shot down a police helicopter. Forty people were killed in the police response. Brazil’s bid for the 2016 Olympics was accepted just one week later.

The state governor ordered a police crackdown on gangs in the slums in mid-2007. Officers are accused of heavy handed tactics and of fueling the violence by forming off-duty vigilante squads that extort slum residents. The United Nations and human rights groups criticized Brazil’s aggressive policing.

Three people are killed in Brazil’s slums each day on average. Officials defend their methods, arguing that they are going up against heavily armed gangs with assault rifles, grenades, and even anti-aircraft weapons.  Last week, police found the body of the leader of a local non-profit organization that offers young people living in the slum theater training. Fred Pinheiro’s throat was slit and he had been missing for two days.

In the past nine years, 10,216 people have been killed in police clashes in Rio. The majority took place in the city’s nine hundred and eighty slums.

For more information, please see:

AP-Shootout in Rio Slum Ahead of Carnival; 8 Dead-11 February 2010

The Washington Post-Eight Killed in Pre-Carnival Violence-11 February 2010

AFP-Eight Dead in Police Clash with Drug Gang in Rio Slang: Officials-11 February 2010

International Human Rights Organization Criticizing IOC’s Non-political Role in China

By Ariel Lin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China – The International Olympic Committee [IOC] is under fire for refusing to publicly articulate concerns about the human rights situation in China before the Beijing Games.  Amnesty International, the London-based human rights watchdog said, “The Olympics have so far failed to catalyze reform in China and pledges to improve human rights before the Games look disingenuous after a string of violations in Beijing and a crackdown in Tibet.”

Human Rights Watch is also accusing the IOC of operating in a moral void, undermining human rights in China and flouting the spirit and letter of the Olympic Charter.  The letter issued by Human Right Watch  earlier in the week urgedthe Ethics Commission to articulate standards compatible with the respect of human rights to guide the Olympic movement. Human Rights Watch is also urging the IOC to publicly assess the extent to which current human rights violations are linked to the preparation of the Games.

Australian IOC member Kevan Gosper fired back, saying the committee was not an activist group or a government.  Chairman of the IOC’s inspection commission for the Beijing Games, Hein Verbruggen called the suggestion by Amensty International that awarding the Games to Beijing had worsened human rights in China “blatantly untrue.”  He also said at a news conference at the end of the final IOC inspection, “We are not a political organization, so in spite of all the criticism we get, I am not afraid to tell you that we should not speak out on political issues.”  Verbruggen said it would be unfair to link Chicago’s bid for the 2016 Olympics to issues such as “Guantanamo or Iraq,” and unjust to tie Madrid’s bid for 2016 to problems with Basque separatists.

However, Asia advocacy director of Human Rights Watch, Sophie Richardson said, “The question is not whether the IOC is a human rights organization.  It’s whether the Olympic movement respects human rights. If it does, remaining silent as China’s crackdown intensifies isn’t acceptable.”

IOC officials have made their final inspection ahead of this year’s games in Beijing and “satisfied with renewed assurances” over a number of concerns, includes making sure foreign news websites are unblocked and live television pictures are beamed around the world without any delay.

For more information, please see:

ABC – IOC pleased with China censorship pledges – 3 April 2008

AP – IOC: We’re can’t interfere in politics – 3 April 2008

Reuters – Amnesty lays into China on rights before Olympics – 2 April 2008

Reuters – IOC vigorously defends non-political role in China – 3 April 2008

Human Rights Watch – China: Letter to Ethics Commission of International Olympic Committee – 31 March 2008

Human Rights Watch – China: International Olympic Committee Operating in Moral Void – 1 April 2008