On the morning of January 22, 2016, Edmilson Alves da Silva, 35, was shot to death along the AL-465 highway in Japaratinga – Alagoas.
Edmilson was a leader of the land and environmental rights struggle in the region of Alagoas and had organised land occupations and denounced environmental crimes by local landowners. He was the president of the sister Daniela Settlement and regional leader of Liberation Movement of the Landless (Movimento de Libertação dos Sem-Terra – MLST).
Sister Daniela Settlement is located in lands between Japaratinga and Porto Calvo, northern region of Brazil. The immittance of possession of the Settlement was obtained in August 2014, after 12 years of resistence and work done by 31 families settled in the community that Edmilson led. During this period, the community and its participants went through death threats and criminal fires.
Edmilson was married to Célia Amâncio dos Santos, 33. The couple lived in a shack in the seat of the settlement along with the five children, who were born in the settlement. Edmilson´s activity related to the defense and promotion of land rights in favor of agricultural workers and peasants in the context of agrarian reform and strong tensions with landowners in the region.
Edmilson was murdered while he was waiting for a car that would take him to Compania Nacional de Abastecimento (Conab), located in Maceió. Edmilson would receive basic food baskets to be distributed to the settlers in the region. While he was waiting, Edmilson was surprised by the arrival of two men on a motorcycle firing toward him. 14 shots were fired, he was hit and, wounded, sought help inside the Settlement, but died next to a shack because of head shots. Celia heard the shots and when she left she saw her husband on the floor: “I ran to help him, but it was too late. He was dead”. Edmilson´s wife said that her husband never mentioned about death threats, but she is sure that he died because of his work on land issues.
Police opened an investigation into the case. The duty delegate of the day was in the Settlement and initiated the investigations. The Department of Judicial Police of Area 3 (DPJA-3) was also in Maragogi and Japaratinga to support police investigations. Police also investigate Edmilson´s involvement in the search for information on the case involving the disappearance of his niece, Jéssica Maria da Silva. Up to now, no information has been provided on the outcome of Edmilson´s murder.
The Interamerican Comission on Human Rights was notified of the murders of at least six human rights defenders between January and February 2016 in three different Brazilian states – Rondônia, Maranhão and Alagoas. Edmilson is in these statistics. The “Grito na Luta”, formed by the Collective of Popular Communicators and Resistance Edmilson Alves recalled one year of Edmilson´s death. It was also remembered the fact that there are still very few information regarding the crime that took the life of Edmilson Alves da Silva. Nothing is known about the person who fired the shots or who was driving the motorcycle that carried the shooter.
In October 2014, during the legal emission of possession of the Sister Daniela Settlement, Edmilson Alves da Silva spoke about his struggle and emotion for the conquest of agrarian reform of the land, after 12 years: “When people said that they were going to close the road, I would also go, but I would stay behind everyone else. Now, when we decide to close the road, I am the first one. We have been here for 12 years, producing and showing to society that we have good things to show. We do not have resources to work, but we are working”.