Saturday, 17 March 2012

Brazil: Attempt to prosecute military man blocked

This week in Brazil an attempt was both made and rebuffed to bring charges against a former army colonel for dictatorship-era human rights abuses.

Prosecutors brought charges against Sebastiao de Moura over the kidnap of five guerrillas in the 1970s. The five had never been found - that is, they remain disappeared rather than murder victims - and thus the prosecution argued that their cases could be regarded on "ongoing crimes" and not subject to the country's amnesty law. The same argument is used in Argentina and is the reason why there is no statute of limitations for forced disappearance or, for that matter, the appropriation of the children of the disappeared.

Brazil to charge army officer over military rule abuses (BBC)
Brazilian Prosecutors Try to Bypass Amnesty to Try Human Rights Crimes (IPS)

However, a judge disagreed and refused to allow the case to come to court. The various English-language media translate the comments of Joao Matos rather differently, but what is not in any doubt is that he dismissed the claim that the cases did not come under the amnesty law. Prosecutors have said they will appeal, so the issue is not quite finished.

Brazil judge rejects attempt to try former army colonel (BBC)
Brazil judge blocks charges for junta-era kidnaps (AP)
Brazilian judge dismisses first dictatorship era case involving an Army officer (Mercopress)

Of course the real problem is the existence of the amnesty law at all. With this and the recent announcement of a weak TRC which has yet to even be formed, Brazil is lagging behind its Southern Cone neighbours.

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