Defence through law

About AmazoniAlerta

AmazoniAlerta is an NGO that works with traditional peoples and communities in Brazil to advance the legal defense of their rights, lands and the Amazon Rainforest.

AmazoniAlerta is led by Indigenous rights lawyers Carol Santana and Kari Guajajara.

It is globally recognised that Indigenous peoples, with their historically sustainable cultures, are the best guardians of their forests. Empowering traditional Amazonian communities to legally defend their lands and rights is one of the most effective tactics in mitigating the illegal deforestation of the rainforest. 

A significant number (though not enough) of Indigenous lands in Brazil are ‘Terra Indígena’ (TI) meaning the indigenous people who have traditionally occupied them have exclusive right to their use and occupation, a right enshrined in the Brazilian Constitution.

In Brazil, over the last 30 years, deforestation of Indigenous lands accounts for just 1.6% of total forest loss, in contrast to 68% for private land. 

However many Indigenous territories and communities are being decimated by myriad small-scale land grabs and infractions by illegal loggers, miners, poachers and farmers whose collective and cumulative actions are destroying the rainforest. 

Our team of Environmental Agents in Araribóia Indigenous Land, State of Maranhão

In partnership with traditional communities AmazoniAlerta  pursues a direct, law-based strategy to defend their lands. We combine:

1. Monitoring of Indigenous territories vulnerable to illegal invasion and deforestation. Our Environmental Agents Team, comprising men and women from traditional communities, gather evidence of land, rights and environmental violations on regular patrols of their local areas.

2. Legal action at local, national and international levels. Acting on evidence gathered by AmazoniAlerta Environmental Agents, our in-house legal team of Indigenous and non-Indigenous lawyers engages with law enforcement, the judiciary and responsible government agencies within Brazil to catalyse the mitigation and prosecution of illegal activity. At the international level we support and advocate for the human rights of Indigenous peoples and communities.  

3. Supporting legal education for Indigenous law students and lawyers. We have begun a program to financially support current Indigenous law students focused on Indigenous rights and environmental law through bursaries and paid internships. Additionally we support the continuing education of Indigenous lawyers working on the frontline of Indigenous and territorial rights in Brazil.

Evidence (with date and location redacted) gathered by our agents in Araribóia Indigenous Land, of illegal logging and illegal land appropriation for raising cattle.

AmazoniAlerta Operations in the Brazilian Amazon

AmazoniAletra operates two teams of Environmental Agents in the Brazilian Amazon.

Araribóia Indigenous Land, State of Maranhão.

Since the spring of 2023, our inaugural team, composed of members of the local Guajajara community, has been operating in Araribóia Indigenous Land in the north east of the Amazon. Home to the Guajajara People and the Awá People the territory is amongst the most invaded and vigorously defended indigenous lands in the Amazon. The area has lost a quarter of its primary rainforest since 2002.

Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau Indigenous Land, State of Rondônia.

Launched in the spring of 2024, our team operating in the Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau Indigenous land is formed by members of the Amondawa community. The territory lies in the state of Rondônia, in the south west of the Amazon and at the western limit of the so-called ‘Arc of Deforestation’ that describes the advancing front line of agricultural-led deforestation of the Amazon. Rondônia has lost 24% of its primary rainforest in the last two decades.

Maps showing the Indigenous territories in which AmazoniAlerta’s Environmental Agents teams operate.

Legal action at local, national and international levels.

Our current and recent engagements include:


In 2023 our Environmental Agents and legal team initiated, through initial evidence gathering, and supported a major law enforcement action against a major illegal logging operation in Araribóia Indigenous Land. It was led by The Federal Police in Maranhão, with support from the National Institute for the Environment (Ibama), National Foundation for Indigenous Peoples (Funai), Civil Police, Military Police and Maranhão Military Fire Brigade (CBMMA). Over 80 government agents destroyed two illegal sawmills, seized chainsaws, other machinery and firearms and arrested over 40 suspects. Prosecutions are ongoing. 

Our team in Araribóia maintains regular contact with local law enforcement on new and ongoing infractions in the area.

Images taken during the recent law enforcement action against an illegal logging operation in Araribóia Indigenous Land that was initiated by evidence gathered and lobbying by local AmazoniAlerta Environmental Agents. Illegal saw mills and machinery was destroyed in the operation and timber seized.


Our legal team, in a supporting role to COIAB (the Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon), is currently engaged in two, ongoing legal processes before the Federal Supreme Court of Brazil – ADPF 709 and ADPF 991

ADPFs are legal actions that aim to protect fundamental rights and principles articulated in the Brazilian Constitution from contrary acts, policies or law. In these structured legal processes the presiding judges review and rule on whether the actions and policies of public authorities in question are constitutional or not. Unusually these legal proceedings do not have a pre-established beginning, middle and end. As structured strategic litigation processes that can have multiple repercussions in terms of improving public policies and achieving the objectives of the actors. For civil society they are legal tools to hold the state to its constitutional obligations.

ADPF 709 was started in 2020, with AmazoniAlerta becoming an active partner in 2023. The case was instigated by APIB (Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil) to protect the health of Indigenous communities and their territorial integrity during the Covid-19 pandemic by requiring the Brazilian state to fulfil its constitutional obligations to protect Indigenous communities, which was so ordered by the Supreme Court. 

However, since the core issue of the state’s failure to adequately protect the integrity of Indigenous lands is persistent the process has continued with a shift in focus to the protection of isolated indigenous peoples and the removal of invaders. Images and information from AmazoniAlerta’s Environmental Agents in Arariboia Indigenous Land, home to the Awá Guajá an isolated Indigenous people has help inform Justice Luís Roberto Barroso, the rapporteur of ADPF 709  in his ordering of judicial measures to strengthening actions to remove invaders, mainly illegal logger, from the territory.  

ADPF 991 was started in 2020 with AmazoniAlerta becoming an active partner in 2023. The action was initiated by APIB to seek a strengthening of measures to protect isolated and recently contacted indigenous peoples, shortly after the murders of Brazilian indigenist Bruno Pereira and British journalist Dom Phillips in the region of Atalaia do Norte, which borders the Vale do Javari Indigenous Land. This region is home to the largest number of isolated peoples in the world. The lawsuit aimed to demonstrate the widespread dismantling of policies to protect isolated peoples by the Bolsonaro government, which contributed, for example, to the killing of Pereira and Phillips by illegal fishermen. 

AmazoniAlerta is contributing to the legal action, images and information gathered by our Environmental Agents on the environment of violence and threat experienced in Arariboia Indigenous Land, home to the Awá Guajá isolated Indigenous people. As an ongoing process ADPF 991 has opened up spaces for permanent dialogue with the federal government on its policies for the protection of isolated and recently contacted peoples. Since, at present, there is no forecast end date for this judicial process, it is optimal to keep feeding this process with up-to-date information on threats to isolated and recently contacted peoples, with the aim of soliciting favorable judicial decisions made by the Supreme Court to generate tangible impact in Indigenous lands.


In the arena of international human rights law AmazoniAlerta is supporting COAPIMA, the Indigenous rights organisation of the Indigenous peoples of Maranhão, in its case before the Inter American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) requiring the Brazilian Government to fulfil its legal obligation to protect Guajajara and peoples living in the Araribóia Indigenous Land. The IACHR has issued a Precautionary Measure no 754-20 requiring the Brazilian state to fulfil its duty of care. The process is ongoing.

Additional Activities

Alongside our territorial monitoring and legal advocacy work, AmazoniAlerta engages in the following programs and activities:

Supporting legal education amongst Indigenous communities.

In 2024 we began a program to financially support current Indigenous law students focused on Indigenous rights and environmental law through bursaries and paid internships.  Additionally AmazoniAlerta legal team members periodically hold workshops with traditional communities to build awareness of their rights and strengthen their legal agency.

Supporting the rights of uncontacted peoples.

AmazoniAlerta is committed to supporting the cause of uncontacted peoples. As part of their program of territorial monitoring our two teams of Environmental Agents patrol areas where uncontacted people are known to live, aiming to contribute to their protection and the preservation of their uncontacted state. 

The work of our Environmental Agents in the Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau Indigenous land is conducted in collaboration with the Observatory for the Human Rights of Isolated and Recently Contacted Peoples (OPI).

Indigenous Women’s Rights.

AmazoniAlerta supports Indigenous Women’s Rights. AmazoniAlerta contributes to a program of workshops and publications for Indigenous women on human rights, domestic violence and business initiatives. A number of team members have significant roles in the annual Indigenous Women’s March that takes place in September in Brasilia.

Our Directors Carol Santana and Kari Guajajara conducting outreach and workshops on Indigenous Women’s Rights.