The IPI global network urges Brazilian authorities to ensure swift justice for the killing of British journalist Dom Phillips and Brazilian indigenous expert Bruno Pereira, who were found brutally murdered in the Amazon two years ago today. We call on authorities to ensure all who were involved, including the alleged mastermind, are held fully accountable for these heinous crimes.

Although several men have been charged with carrying out these killings, including the individual who police believe is responsible for ordering the murders, their trials have yet to take place. In addition to these delays, local rights groups fear police have not sufficiently investigated powerful local politicians who may have been involved in the crime, and others who tried to cover up the murder. 

Phillips, who contributed to various media outlets, including The Guardian and The Washington Post, along with Pereira, an indigenous affairs expert with the National Foundation of Indigenous Peoples (FUNAI), went missing in the state of Vale do Javari on June 5, 2022.

The duo were last seen traveling together by boat on the Itaquai River on their way to Atalaia do Norte, a town near the border with Peru, while investigating illegal fishing and its impact on local indigenous communities in Amazonia’s Javari Valley.

Their disappearance sparked international attention and prompted a wide search operation involving the Brazilian navy, federal police, and indigenous rights groups. Finally, on June 17 and June 18, respectively, their bodies were found at a river bank. The search received significant help from the Union of Indigenous Peoples of the Javari Valley (UNIVAJA). 

Still no convictions

Two years later, no one has been convicted for these murders, despite the fact that several suspects have been associated with the case through a combination of police investigations, confessions, and witness testimonies.

Three men – Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira (“Pelado”), Oseney da Costa de Oliveira (“Dos Santos”) and Jefferson da Silva Lima (“Pelado da Dinha”) – have been arrested and remain in jail awaiting trial, but the trial is not due to start until 2025. 

Additionally, police have charged a man called Ruben Dario da Silva Villar, alias “Colombia”, who they believe ordered the murders. Pereira was openly opposed to illegal fishing operations, which impacted Villar’s criminal activities in the region. “Colombia” was formally charged with double homicide and concealment of corpses in connection with the murders in January 2023.

An investigation by Forbidden Stories and 16 media organizations in 10 countries found evidence linking the case to organized crime and drug trafficking. The documents they obtained from prosecutors confirmed that illegal fishing and drug trafficking activities in the region Javari had indeed been led by “Colombia”.

“The IPI global network calls for full accountability for the brutal murders of journalist Dom Phillips and his colleague Bruno Pereira”, IPI Director of Advocacy Amy Brouillette said. “Two years after these murders occurred, we demand that every individual involved in this heinous crime – from those who ordered the murders to those who carried them out as well as any accomplices who helped carry out, or cover up, these crimes – be held accountable.” 

The killing of Dom Phillips represents the increasing challenges and dangers of covering climate and environmental issues. IPI’s research has found that environmental journalists in the Amazon and around the world face growing threats to their work, including physical attacks, legal threats, as well as denial of access to information.