Araguaia case may challenge Brazilian amnesty law

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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