Brazil commission says abusers could be tried

May 22, 2013

AP/ABC News, 05/21/2013

A Truth Commission investigating human rights abuses under Brazil’s military dictatorship says that those it finds guilty of torture could be brought to trial.

A 1979 amnesty law protects civilians and military personnel from liability for politically motivated crimes committed during the 1964-1985 military regime. But commission coordinator Rosa Cardoso says they could be tried by the Costa Rica-based Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

She notes that “there are no statutes of limitations for crimes committed against humanity.” And adds, “Amnesties are not valid under international law.”

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Brazil’s truth commission faces delicate task

May 16, 2012

Paulo Cabral – BBC Brasil, 05/16/2012

Brazil’s Truth Commission, created to investigate human rights abuses committed during the country’s military dictatorship, is set to meet for the first time on Wednesday amid criticism from both army officers and victims’ relatives.

Military rule spanned 21 years, from 1964 to 1985. More than 400 people were either killed or disappeared, while thousands were tortured.

As the commission gathers for the first time, there is discomfort among some in Brazil’s military over what they perceive as an attempt at revenge by an ideologically-biased government.

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Amazon deforestation rates double as Brazil weighs bill to pardon farmers

June 30, 2011

Stephan Nielsen – Reuters, 06/30/2011

Deforestation rates in the Brazilian Amazon, the world’s biggest rain forest, more than doubled last month as farmers become more confident they’ll be granted amnesty for illegal logging.

Almost 268 square kilometers (66,200 acres) of protected rain forest were cut down in May, up from 110 square kilometers a year ago, the National Institute for Space Research said today in an e-mailed statement.

Brazil lawmakers are considering a bill that alters its forestry code and would forgive farmers who illegally cleared trees. The possibility that the government may ease these restrictions is encouraging more logging, said Marcio Astrini, coordinator of forest campaigns for Greenpeace International’s Brazil unit. That would hamper international efforts to fight global warming by protecting trees that absorb greenhouse gases.

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Amnesty, human rights and diplomacy

January 4, 2011

Paulo Sotero – Estado de S. Paulo, 01/02/2011

This op-ed was originally published in Portuguese here

The recent verdict of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights condemning Brazil in the case of the Araguaia guerrilla and demanding the punishment of those responsible for the disappearance of 64 people in the early 1970s is a challenge that President Dilma Rousseff probably did not count on addressing this early in her administration. Having, however, signaled that she will take human rights matters very seriously, the president has an opportunity to act with greatness regarding the decision of the Court of the Organization of American States (OAS).

The argument that there is no demand from society for a review of the painful past reflects reality but is flawed. In democratic nations, good leaders don’t just do what the people want, but what reason and decency require. Unfortunately, Brazil’s Amnesty Law of 1979 –an integral part of the political compromise that paved the transition from the military rule to the rule of law a quarter century ago – included the crimes of torture committed by state agents and perpetuated the culture of impunity that undermines democracy in Brazil. Read the rest of this entry »


Latin America rights its wrongs, one step at a time

November 15, 2010

Lucia Bird and Ellen Jones – The Santiago Times, 11/11/2010

In different ways Brazil, Argentina and Chile deal with their human rights legacies

The election of Dilma Rousseff as Brazil’s first female president has prompted the reopening of human rights cases against military junta members who tortured her and others during Brazil’s military dictatorship of the 1970s.

Rousseff was involved with radical leftist urban guerrilla groups during the junta’s rule, though she denies being part of any of the violence ascribed to them. Rousseff, daughter of an upper middle-class Bulgarian lawyer, joined the guerrilla group following the 1964 coup d’état. She was captured and tortured between 1970 and 1972. One prison guard dubbed her “Joan of Arc,” in light of the frequent beatings and electric shocks she endured.

Following a dispute within the Democratic Labor Party, which she co-founded, Rousseff joined the Workers Party in 2000. She became energy minister in 2002, following President Lula da Silva’s election victory. In 2005, she quickly rose to become the first female chief of staff following the forced resignation of Jose Dirceu after a corruption crisis.


Araguaia case may challenge Brazilian amnesty law

June 7, 2010

Roque Planas – The Latin American News Dispatch, 06/03/2010

When Brazil’s highest court upheld a controversial amnesty law preventing trial and punishment for political crimes committed during the military dictatorship in April, it appeared that one of the country’s most polarizing political issues had been settled for good.

But a case before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has put the law under scrutiny once again.

The case, Julia Gomes Lund, et al v. Brazil, concerns the alleged arbitrary detention, torture and forced disappearance of 70 people, including members of the Communist Party of Brazil and local farmers, according to a press release from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR).

It is the first time that Brazil has been called to defend itself before the IACHR for human rights abuses committed during the dictatorship, according to Brazilian news agency O Globo. The Brazilian government admitted responsibility for the political deaths and authorized reparations to their family members in 1995, but under the country’s 1979 amnesty law, relatives cannot bring their cases to trial in Brazil.

Relatives of the victims and representatives of the Brazilian government testified in an open hearing before the IACHR in San José, Costa Rica, on May 20 and 21.

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