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Activists demonstrate in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on July 19, 2018 in favor of abortion legalization. © 2018 Fabio Vieira/FotoRua/NurPhoto via Getty Images

(São Paulo) – A leading Brazilian reproductive rights activist, Debora Diniz, is facing death threats ahead of a Supreme Court hearing on access to abortion, Human Rights Watch said today. Brazilian authorities should promptly and thoroughly investigate the threats and make sure adequate steps are being taken to ensure Diniz’s safety. The authorities should also take urgent steps to protect freedom of expression for everyone participating in the hearing.

On August 3 and 6, 2018, the Brazilian Supreme Court will hold a public hearing in Brasilia, the capital, on a case challenging the criminalization of abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Under the criminal code, abortion is criminalized and prohibited in Brazil, except when the pregnancy resulted from rape or endangers the life of the woman, or when the fetus has anencephaly, a fatal brain disorder. The case before the court could dramatically expand women’s access to safe and legal abortion. In recent weeks, Diniz, a law professor and co-founder of Anis – Institute of Bioethics, a nongovernmental organization in Brasilia, has received death threats related to her work on access to abortion. She left her home and entered police protection in July.

“It is deeply disturbing that Debora Diniz is facing death threats and was forced to enter police protection because she is defending women’s rights to make fundamental decisions about their bodies and lives,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “Brazil’s authorities should take immediate steps to ensure that all participants in the Supreme Court hearing can safely exercise their freedom of expression.”

Diniz, who appears in a Human Rights Watch video released on July 31, has said she will still participate in the hearing. Dozens of experts from all over the world, including Human Rights Watch, will testify before the court. Human Rights Watch will urge the court to consider Brazil’s obligations under international law in reaching its ruling.

“No one should have to fear for their personal safety or security because of their human rights activism,” Vivanco said. “People should not have to fear for their lives to testify before Brazil’s highest court.”

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