Campaigners have said the Brazilian government bears “heavy responsibility” for a reported massacre of members of a remote Amazonian tribe.
Government prosecutors are currently investigating reports that gold miners have killed more than 10 members of an uncontacted tribe, potentially wiping out a fifth of their number.
Campaign groups say the alleged killings, and others like them, happen because Brazilian authorities are failing to protect vulnerable uncontacted communities from illegal mining and logging activity.
Stephen Corry, director of the Survival charity, said Brazilian President Michel Temer and his government would “bear a heavy responsibility for this genocidal attack” if the reports are confirmed.
Women and children from the tribe in western Brazil are said to be among the dead.
Brazil’s National Indian Foundation (Funai), the government agency responsible for protecting indigenous peoples, said in a statement that some prospectors had been detained for questioning.
The area where the alleged massacre took place is known as the Uncontacted Frontier, an area of rainforest home to more uncontacted peoples than anywhere else on Earth.
In most cases, tribes classified as uncontacted have no contact with the world outside their immediate group, and they depend on the natural environment for survival.
These isolated tribes are protected under the Brazilian constitution.
But Survival, an NGO campaigning on behalf of such groups, said the Brazilian government had failed to protect the tribe and others in the area, pointing to cuts to Funai.
“The slashing of Funai’s funds has left dozens of uncontacted tribes defenceless against thousands of invaders – goldminers, ranchers and loggers – who are desperate to steal and ransack their lands,” Mr Corry said.
“All these tribes should have had their lands properly recognised and protected years ago”.
Termed a “genocide” by campaign group Survival International, the killings are thought to have taken place in August but emerged when a gold miner was reportedly overheard bragging and showing trophies of the alleged crimes in a local bar.
FUNAI said it was making “every effort” to investigate the alleged killings, adding that difficulties in reaching the remote area made investigations challenging.