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UN Calls Murder of Brazilian Tribal Chief 'Reprehensible'

FILE - U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet listens during a meeting at the Foreign Ministry, in Caracas, Venezuela, June 20, 2019.

The U.N. human rights chief calls the murder of the leader of Brazil's indigenous Wajapi tribe "reprehensible" and demands the Brazilian government respect the integrity of indigenous territories.

"The Brazilian government's proposed policy to open up more areas of the Amazon to mining could lead to incidents of violence, intimidation and killings," Michelle Bachelet said Monday. "When indigenous people are pushed off their lands, it is not just an economic issue. As the U.N Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples makes clear, it affects their entire way of life."

The body of Wajapi chief Emrya Wajapi was found in a river last week. The tribe controls part of Brazil's northern Amapa state.

The Brazilian government set aside part of the state in the 1980s for the use of 800,000 tribespeople.

But Brazil's new far right president Jair Bolsonaro has called on other nations to exploit what he calls the "absurd quantity of minerals" in the Amazon rainforest, despite the irreversible environmental damage such actions could bring.

Bolsonaro is supported by Brazilian logging, mining, and farming industries whose interest in the Amazon could lead to a "new wave of violence aimed at scaring people off their ancestral lands," Bachelet warns.

The 2007 U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples says such populations "shall not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories, their environments shall be protected, and any relocations that are absolutely necessary can only take place with their free and informed consent."