By Fabio Teixeira
RIO DE JANEIRO (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Brazil's so-called dirty list, one of the nation's most powerful weapons against slave labor, is legal and can proceed, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday.
With the ruling, the list of companies and individuals found by labor inspectors to have engaged in slave labor overcame a legal challenge by a Brazilian association of real estate developers.
Companies on the list are barred from receiving state loans, and it is used by private banks to gauge credit risk and by international buyers concerned about their supply chains.
The lawsuit filed by Abrainc, the real estate association, argued that the list could only be created by law and not by a unilateral decision by Brazil's government.
In the ruling, a majority of the 11 ministers on the court decided that creation of the list, under publication rules issued in 2016, was constitutional.
"The existence of modern forms of slavery is diametrically opposed to any goals of a society that intends to be democratic," wrote minister Edson Fachin, who voted in favor of the list.
The list "enables the fight against odious practices of modern slavery," said Fachin.
The list is published at least once every six months.
The most recent list named about 150 companies and individuals.
Businesses found by the government to have used slave labor are placed on the list for two years, after which they are removed if no further cases of modern slavery are discovered.
Paula Nunes, a lawyer from Conectas, a human rights nonprofit group that defended the list before the Supreme Court, praised the judges' decision.
"They highlighted how the dirty list is fully in line with international labor protection standards that Brazil is a signatory to," she said.
The ruling is a win for Brazil's labor inspectors responsible for compiling the list, first created in 2004.
"The Supreme Court ruling is extremely important," said labor inspector Mauricio Krepsky, head of the Division of Inspection for the Eradication of Slave Labor.
"Creation of a register of employers that subjected workers to conditions analogous to slavery is one of the fundamental initiatives by the Brazilian government to tackle slave labor."
(Reporting by Fabio Teixeira @ffctt; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)