Brazilians Push to Prosecute Military Junta’s Human Rights Crimes, Pushed Back by JudgeCrece movimiento jurídico para burlar ley de amnistía en BrasilCresce movimento jurídico para evitar a lei de anistia no Brasil

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Brazilian prosecutors try to bypass amnesty to try human rights crimes

By Fabiana Frayssinet
IPS

English | Spanish | Portuguese

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – A group of young lawyers in Brazil’s public prosecutor’s office are seeking to break through the wall created by the amnesty law that blocks the investigation and prosecution of serious human rights violations committed during the country’s 21-year military dictatorship.

Bodies of guerrillas wrapped in canvas by soldiers in 1972 along the Araguaia River in the state of Pará, Brazil (Credit: Digitisation of negatives held by retired sergeant José Antônio de Souza Perez).

The work of Justiça de Transición (Transitional Justice), a group made up of public prosecutors from several Brazilian states, is based on the concept that forced disappearances committed during the 1964-1985 dictatorship are ongoing crimes.

The 1979 amnesty law has so far kept human rights crimes like torture, forced disappearance and murder, committed by members of the security forces or leftwing guerrillas, out of the courts.

“Our argument is that (forced disappearances) are not crimes of the past, but ongoing crimes,”

Ronaldo Cramer, the representative of the Rio de Janeiro state chapter of Brazil’s bar association (OAB-RJ), told IPS.

In these cases, the crime of kidnapping is ongoing until the victim appears, dead or alive. And if those responsible for the forced disappearance refuse to provide information on the whereabouts of the body, they continue to practice the crime of hiding the corpse, prosecutor Ivan Cláudio Marx of the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul explained to the press.

Cramer said that by taking this approach,

“we are trying to break through the amnesty law, which refers to crimes committed until Aug. 15, 1979.”

“This is not about revising the law or giving it a different interpretation,”

added the OAB-RJ lawyer, one of the driving forces behind the Campaign for Memory and Truth, which helped come up with the strategy based on the “ongoing crime” argument, which has also been used in other Latin American countries like Chile and Guatemala.

The group moved from theory to practice on Wednesday Mar. 14, when they brought charges against army reserve colonel Sebastião Curió in a court in Marabá, in the northern state of Pará, for the “aggravated kidnapping” of five people in that area in 1974.

The disappeared victims, who belonged to the Araguaia guerrillas – the armed wing of the Communist Party of Brazil – were captured during military operations led by Curió.

According to the group of seven prosecutors who filed the legal action, the whereabouts of the victims are still unknown, although there is testimony from witnesses who say they were tortured and were seen for the last time in military custody.

“The decision by federal prosecutors to bring charges against a retired military officer for grave abuses committed in the 1970s is a landmark step for accountability in Brazil,”

the New York-based watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a statement.

Under the military regime, more than 475 people were killed or “disappeared” for political reasons, according to official reports. In addition, some 50,000 were imprisoned and at least 20,000 were tortured.

“This is tremendous news for the families who lost loved ones in the brutal repression that followed the 1964 military coup. A quarter century after Brazil’s transition to democracy, they are still awaiting justice,”

HRW Americas director José Miguel Vivanco said in the communiqué.

Now it is up to a federal judge to determine whether or not the case will go to court. If it does, it will be the first time that a member of the military involved in the dictatorship will be in the dock for human rights violations. Up to now, that possibility has been blocked by the 1979 amnesty.

The amnesty law was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2010. But according to the prosecutors who filed the charges, the accusation does not run counter to that legal verdict either, because

“the five kidnappings are ongoing,”

said Sérgio Suyama, a prosecutor from the southern state of São Paulo.

The group of prosecutors aimed to give a response to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which in November 2010 issued a ruling condemning Brazil for upholding an amnesty law that is “incompatible” with the international human rights treaties signed by this country.

The binding ruling stated that the amnesty cannot continue to prevent the investigation and prosecution of crimes against humanity committed by state agents during the military regime.

In 2011, Congress approved the creation of a Truth Commission, which will begin this year to investigate the human rights violations committed since 1964. However, it will not have the legal authority to establish criminal responsibility, and its conclusions will not give rise to court cases.

In the face of “setbacks” and hurdles like the Truth Commission and the amnesty law,

“This action by the Public Ministry (public prosecutor’s office) is essential, not only because it involves legal action, but more importantly because these people like Curió, who remain in the shadows, will be showing their faces and telling what happened,”

Cecilia Coimbra, the president of the group Tortura Nunca Mais (Torture Never Again), told IPS.

The human rights activist, a former member of the Communist Party who was imprisoned and tortured by the army in 1970, said the important thing is for these stories from the past, as well as public documents that

“are still in the hands of repressors like Curió, to come to light, and not just to a certain extent, as the Truth Commission intends.”

“We hope this legal action brought by the prosecutor’s office will be the first of many,” she said.

There are 55 other cases that fit the category of ongoing crimes, in which the group of prosecutors could file charges.

Cramer said the Brazilian bar association “is well-disposed towards” the initiative. Many were in favour of amending the amnesty law, but the public prosecutor’s office “did not move enough” to do that, he said.

“We hope the Public Ministry will be committed to this, and that legal action like this will stop being isolated events and will become a corporative stance;” said Cramer.

Only then, he added, will the courts be able to confirm that ongoing crimes “are excluded from the amnesty law.”

In his view, that would be a way to begin filling the gap left by a Truth Commission that is “a necessary but not sufficient tiny first step.”

“Until the truth comes out, this story will always be a ghost, an open wound,” the prosecutor said.

One of the Supreme Court magistrates, Gilmar Mendes, ridiculed the concept that certain crimes committed by the dictatorship are “ongoing” and thus do not fall under the amnesty.

“We’re going to wait until this question reaches the Supreme Court,”

he told the press. In the meantime,

“let’s just let people discuss this and entertain themselves with the debate.”

 

Source: IPS

 

 

Human rights prosecution a landmark step

First Criminal Charges for Abuses During Military Rule

By Staff
Human Rights Watch

Washington, DC, U.S. — The decision by federal prosecutors to bring charges against a retired military officer for grave abuses committed in the 1970’s is a landmark step for accountability in Brazil, Human Rights Watch said today.

Federal prosecutors announced on March 13, 2012, that they are charging Col. Sebastião Curió Rodrigues de Moura with “aggravated kidnapping” for his alleged role in five enforced disappearances in Pará state in 1974. The charges will be formally submitted this week to a federal judge, who will determine whether the case will go to trial.

The case is the first in which criminal charges are brought against a Brazilian official for the human rights crimes committed during the country’s military dictatorship, from 1964 to 1985. More than 475 people were forcibly disappeared during that era, and thousands more were illegally detained or tortured.

“This is tremendous news for the families who lost loved ones in the brutal repression that followed the 1964 military coup,”

said José Miguel Vivanco, executive director of the Americas Division of Human Rights Watch.

“A quarter century after Brazil’s transition to democracy, they are still awaiting justice.”

The five people who allegedly disappeared were members of a small guerrilla organization detained during military operations in 1974. According to federal prosecutors, witnesses last saw them in military custody. Their fate remains unknown.

A 1979 amnesty law had effectively barred criminal prosecutions for dictatorship-era abuses. In November 2010, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled in Gomes-Lund et al. (Guerrilha do Araguaia) v. Brazil that this amnesty law must not prevent the investigation and prosecution of serious human rights violations committed during military rule.

Brazil’s congress subsequently approved a law creating a truth commission to examine serious human rights violations committed during the military era. There has been little progress, however, in holding those responsible for abuses to account.

Under international humanitarian law, enforced disappearances are absolutely prohibited and can never be justified, whether as part of an armed conflict or any law enforcement operation. They may also constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity.

As a party to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, ratified by Brazil in November 2010, Brazil has specific obligations to ensure that, whenever an offense occurs, there is effective investigation and prosecution, and a proper remedy for the victim. When it ratified the treaty, Brazil did not include any reservations regarding the application of the Convention to outstanding, continuous cases of disappearances.

Moreover, while international law forbids the retroactive application of the criminal law, this prohibition is not intended to prevent the punishment of acts that were recognized as criminal under international law at the time that they were committed, Human Rights Watch said.

Article 15 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Brazil ratified in 1992, notes specifically that

“[n]othing in this article shall prejudice the trial and punishment of any person for any act or omission which, at the time when committed, was criminal according to the general principles of law recognized by the community of nations.”

“Since political leaders have failed to repeal the amnesty law, it is up to prosecutors and courts to ensure that Brazil fulfills its international obligation to bring to justice those who are responsible for past atrocities,” Vivanco said.

 

Source: Human Rights Watch

 

Brazilian judge halts prosecution of torturers from military regime

By Colin M. Snider
Americas South and North

Last week, I mentioned a story about Brazilian prosecutors attempting to finally charge those who ordered or conducted torture during the military dictatorship of 1964-85. While I expressed hope that the cases might lead Brazil to finally confront its past, I was also privately fearful that the issue may not get off the ground, and it turns out, those fears were not unfounded:

A federal judge on Friday blocked prosecutors’ efforts to hold the first trial of a military man for abuses committed during the nation’s dictatorship.

Judge Joao Matos ruled that kidnapping charges filed earlier this week against retired army Col. Sebastiao de Moura would go against Brazil’s 1979 amnesty law. The amnesty bars prosecutions for politically motivated crimes that were committed during the 1964-85 military regime.

Prosecutors said in an e-mailed statement that they would appeal. Their decision to pursue the case was applauded this week by the United Nations and humans rights groups.

This doesn’t mean that Brazilian prosecutors’ efforts are finished; as the cases of Chile, Argentina, Guatemala, and El Salvador have all shown, the process of seeking justice against human rights violators is a tortuous path. That said, while the sheer effort to circumvent the 1979 amnesty law has fueled debate and public discussion about Brazil’s military dictatorship and its legacies, debate and public discussion are not the same thing as convictions, and this is a discouraging step. Time will only tell if it’s a temporary roadblock, or yet another failure for Brazil to substantively and directly confront its authoritarian past.

 

Source: Americas South and North

 

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Brazil and ‘Peacekeeping’: Policy, Not Altruism

 

Crece movimiento jurídico para burlar ley de amnistía en Brasil

Por Fabiana Frayssinet
IPS

inglés | español | portugués

Río de Janeiro, Brasil — Ante la muralla de una amnistía que impide juzgar crímenes cometidos por el régimen militar de Brasil, cobra fuerza un movimiento de jóvenes abogados del Ministerio Público para atravesarla con recursos jurídicos de derechos humanos inéditos en este país.

Cuerpos de guerrilleros embalados en lonas por militares en 1972, en la zona del río Araguaia, Pará (Crédito: Imagen obtenida de la digitalización de negativos en poder del exsargento José Antônio de Souza Perez).

El grupo Justicia de Transición, integrado por procuradores del Ministerio Público (fiscales) de varios estados brasileños, trabaja bajo la tesis de que los secuestros y desapariciones forzadas perpetradas durante la dictadura (1964-1985) son crímenes que se siguen cometiendo hoy.

La ley de amnistía de 1979 impidió hasta ahora procesar penalmente denuncias de torturas, secuestros y asesinatos cometidos en ese entonces, tanto por agentes del Estado como por organizaciones guerrilleras de izquierda.

“El argumento es que no son delitos del pasado, sino que se siguen cometiendo hasta hoy”,

explicó a IPS el representante de la sección del sureño estado de Río de Janeiro de la Orden de Abogados de Brasil (OAB-RJ), Ronaldo Cramer, al referirse a la tesis de los “crímenes permanentes”.

Estos delitos son el secuestro continuado y el ocultamiento del cadáver.

Si la víctima no aparece, viva o muerta, el secuestro se sigue cometiendo. De la misma forma, si los responsables de la desaparición se niegan a informar del paradero de los cuerpos, continúan practicando el crimen de ocultación de cadáver, según explicó a la prensa el procurador Ivan Cláudio Marx, del sureño estado de Rio Grande do Sul.

Con ello “conseguimos traspasar la ley de amnistía, pues esta se refiere a crímenes cometidos” hasta el 15 de agosto de 1979, explicó Cramer.

“Esto no es revisar la ley ni darle otra interpretación”,

agregó el abogado de la OAB –RJ, una de las principales impulsoras de la Campaña por la Memoria y la Verdad, que ayudó a concebir la estrategia de los crímenes permanentes.

El grupo pasó de la teoría a la práctica este miércoles 14, cuando denunció ante la justicia de Marabá, en el norteño estado de Pará, al coronel de reserva del ejército Sebastião Curió Rodrigues de Moura, por el supuesto “secuestro calificado” de cinco personas en esa zona durante 1974.

Los desaparecidos, integrantes de Guerrilla de Araguaia –brazo armado del Partido Comunista de Brasil (PCdoB) que luchó contra la dictadura– fueron detenidos en operaciones militares encabezadas por Curió.

Según el grupo de siete fiscales que presentaron la denuncia, se desconoce hasta hoy el paradero de esas víctimas, si bien existen testimonios de que fueron torturadas y vistas por última vez bajo custodia militar.

La decisión de

“presentar denuncia contra un coronel de reserva por graves abusos cometidos en la década de los 70 es un paso histórico para la responsabilización de estos actos en Brasil”,

sostuvo en un comunicado la organización internacional de derechos humanos Human Rights Watch (HRW), con sede en Nueva York.

Bajo el régimen militar, más de 475 personas fueron asesinadas o desaparecidas por razones políticas, según informes oficiales. Asimismo unas 50.000 fueron encarceladas y más de 20.000 torturadas.

“Es una gran noticia para las familias que perdieron a sus seres queridos en la violenta ola de represión que siguió al golpe de 1964”,

declaró en el comunicado José Miguel Vivanco, director ejecutivo de HRW para las Américas.

Ahora, un juez federal debe determinar si el caso irá a juicio. Sería la primera vez que un militar vinculado a la dictadura se siente en el banquillo de los acusados por violaciones a los derechos humanos. Hasta ahora lo impedía la mencionada amnistía.

Según los denunciantes, la medida tampoco contraría la decisión de ratificar dicha ley, adoptada por el Supremo Tribunal Federal (corte suprema) en 2010, porque “los cinco secuestros continúan ocurriendo”, explicó el fiscal del sureño estado de São Paulo, Sérgio Suyama.

El grupo de fiscales se formó con el objetivo de dar una respuesta a la Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos que, en noviembre de 2010, condenó a Brasil por sostener una ley de amnistía “incompatible” con los tratados internacionales de derechos humanos firmados por este país.

El dictamen inapelable del tribunal continental sentenció que esa norma no puede seguir representando “un obstáculo al castigo de los responsables”.

En 2011, el Congreso legislativo aprobó la creación de una Comisión de la Verdad, que comenzará a funcionar este año para investigar las violaciones a los derechos humanos cometidas desde 1964, pero que no responsabilizará criminalmente a sus autores.

Frente a “retrocesos” como esa comisión y la ley de amnistía, “esta acción del Ministerio Público es fundamental, no porque se trate de una acción criminal o penal”, dijo a IPS la presidenta del Grupo Tortura Nunca Más, Cecilia Coimbra.

“Lo más importante es que esa gente que continúa en las sombras, como Curió, muestre su cara y diga qué ocurrió”,

dijo Coimbra, una exmilitante del PCdoB, que fue presa y torturada por el ejército en agosto de 1970.

Para la ahora activista humanitaria, lo importante es que esas historias del pasado se ventilen, y “no hasta cierto punto” como pretende la Comisión de la Verdad, y que salgan a la luz documentos públicos hasta hoy “en manos de represores como Curió”.

“Esperamos que la acción de la fiscalía sea la primera de muchas”, destacó.

Bajo el paraguas de los crímenes permanentes existen otros 55 casos que el grupo de fiscales podría denunciar a la justicia.

El representante Cramer subrayó que la Orden de Abogados de Brasil ve “con muy buenos ojos” la iniciativa. Muchos estaban a favor de revisar la ley de amnistía, pero al Ministerio Público “le faltaba moverse más”, dijo.

“Esperemos que el Ministerio Público se convenza de esto, y acciones como esta dejen de ser aisladas para convertirse en una actitud de la corporación”, agregó Cramer.

Solo así la justicia puede comenzar a confirmar que los crímenes permanentes “están excluidos de la ley de amnistía”.

En su opinión, se empezaría así a saldar la deuda de una Comisión de la Verdad, que es un primer paso “mínimo” y “necesario”, pero no suficiente.

“Mientras la verdad no aparezca, esta historia siempre será un fantasma, una llaga abierta”, opinó Cramer.

Uno de los magistrados del Supremo Tribunal Federal, Gilmar Mendes, se burló de la tesis de los delitos permanentes aplicable a ciertos crímenes de la dictadura.

“Vamos a esperar que esta cuestión llegue al Supremo”,

dijo a la prensa. Mientras tanto,

“dejemos que la gente discuta y se divierta con este debate”.

 

Fuente: IPS

Cresce movimento jurídico para evitar a lei de anistia no Brasil

Por Fabiana Frayssinet
IPS via Envolverde

inglês | espanhol | português

Rio de Janeiro, Brasil — Diante da muralha de uma anistia que impede julgar crimes cometidos pelo regime militar brasileiro, ganha força um movimento de jovens advogados do Ministério Público (MP) para evitá-la com recursos jurídicos de direitos humanos inéditos no país. O grupo Justiça de Transição, integrado por procuradores do MP de vários Estados, trabalha sob a tese de que os sequestros e desaparecimentos forçados durante a ditadura (1964-1985) são crimes que continuam sendo cometidos hoje em dia.

Corpos de guerrilheiros são embalados em lonas por militares, em 1972, na região do Rio Araguaia, no Pará. Foto retirada de digitalização de negativos em posse do ex-sargento José Antônio de Souza Perez (Reprodução).

A lei de anistia de 1979 vem impedindo que se processe penalmente denúncias de torturas, sequestros e assassinatos cometidos nesse período, tanto por agentes do Estado quanto por organizações guerrilheiras de esquerda.

“O argumento é que não são crimes do passado, e que continuam sendo cometidos atualmente”,

explicou à IPS o representante da Ordem dos Advogados do Brasil (OAB), seção do Rio de Janeiro, Ronaldo Cramer, ao se referir à tese dos “crimes permanentes”, que são sequestro continuado e ocultação de cadáver.

Se a vítima não aparece, viva ou morta, o sequestro segue cometido. Da mesma forma, se os responsáveis pelo desaparecimento se negam a informar o paradeiro dos corpos, continuam praticando o crime de ocultação de cadáver, disse à imprensa o procurador Ivan Cláudio Marx, do Rio Grande do Sul. Com isso “conseguimos contornar a lei de anistia, pois esta se refere a crimes cometidos” até 15 de agosto de 1979, detalhou Cramer.

“Isto não significa revisar a lei nem lhe dar outra interpretação”,

acrescentou o advogado da OAB-RJ, uma das principais impulsoras da Campanha pela Memória da Verdade, que ajudou a criar a estratégia dos crimes permanentes.

O grupo passou da teoria à prática no dia 14, quando denunciou à justiça de Marabá, no Pará, o coronel da reserva do exército Sebastião Curió Rodrigues de Moura, pelo suposto “sequestro qualificado” de cinco pessoas nessa região, em 1974. Os desaparecidos, integrantes da Guerrilha do Araguaia – braço armado do Partido Comunista do Brasil (PCdoB), que lutou contra a ditadura – foram detidos em operações militares encabeçadas por Curió.

Segundo o grupo de sete promotores que apresentou a denúncia, se desconhece até hoje o paradeiro dessas vítimas, embora existam testemunhos de que foram torturadas e vistas pela última vez sob custódia militar. A decisão de

“apresentar denúncia contra um coronel da reserva por graves abusos cometidos na década de 1970 é um passo histórico para a responsabilização destes atos no Brasil”,

afirmou em um comunicado a organização internacional de direitos humanos Human Rightws Wata (HRW), com sede em Nova York.

Durante o regime militar, mais de 475 pessoas foram assassinadas ou desapareceram por razões políticas, segundo informes oficiais. Além disso, cerca de 50 mil foram presas e mais de 20 mil torturadas.

“É uma grande notícia para as famílias que perderam seus entes queridos na violenta onda de repressão que se seguiu ao golpe de 1964”,

afirmou em um comunicado José Miguel Vivanco, diretor executivo da HRW para as Américas. Agora, um juiz federal deve determinar se o caso irá a julgamento. Se isso ocorrer, será a primeira vez que um militar ligado à ditadura se sentará no banco dos réus por violações dos direitos humanos. Até agora a mencionada anistia impede isso.

Segundo os denunciantes, a medida tampouco contraria a decisão de ratificar essa lei, adotada pelo Supremo Tribunal Federal em 2010, porque “os cinco sequestros continuam acontecendo”, ressaltou o promotor do Estado de São Paulo, Sérgio Suyama. O grupo de promotores foi criado com o objetivo de dar uma resposta ao Tribunal Interamericano de Direitos Humanos que, em novembro de 2010, condenou o Brasil por manter uma lei de anistia “incompatível” com os tratados internacionais de direitos humanos assinados por Brasília. A decisão, inapelável, dessa corte sentenciou que a lei não pode continuar representando “um obstáculo ao castigo dos responsáveis”.

Em 2011, o Congresso aprovou a criação da Comissão da Verdade, que começará a funcionar este ano para investigar as violações dos direitos humanos cometidas desde 1954, mas que não responsabilizará criminalmente seus autores.

Diante de “retrocessos” como essa comissão e da lei de anistia, “essa ação do Ministério Público é fundamental, não por se tratar de uma ação criminal ou penal”, opinou à IPS a presidente do Grupo Tortura Nunca Mais, Cecília Coimbra.

“O mais importante é que essa gente que continua nas sombras, como Curió, mostre sua cara e diga o que aconteceu”,

afirmou Cecília, ex-militante do PCdoB, que foi presa e torturada pelo exército em agosto de 1970.

Para esta ativista humanitária, o importante é que essas histórias do passado sejam divulgadas, e “não até certo ponto”, como pretende a Comissão da Verdade, e que venham à luz documentos públicos até hoje

“em mãos de repressores como Curió. Esperamos que a ação do MP seja a primeira de muitas”, destacou.

Sob o guarda-chuva dos crimes permanentes existem outros 55 casos que o grupo de promotores poderia denunciar à justiça.

Cramer destacou que a OAB vê “com muito bons olhos” a iniciativa. Muitos estavam a favor de revisar a lei de anistia, mas faltava o MP “se movimentar mais”, esclareceu.

“Esperemos que o Ministério Público se convença disto, e ações como esta deixem de ser isoladas para serem uma atitude da corporação”,

ressaltou, lembrando que

“só assim se pode começar a confirmar que os crimes permanentes estão excluídos da lei de anistia”.

Em sua opinião, desta forma se começaria a saldar a dívida de uma Comissão da Verdade, que é um primeiro passo “mínimo” e “necessário”, mas não suficiente.

“Enquanto a verdade não aparecer, esta história sempre será um fantasma, uma ferida aberta”, concluiu.

Um dos juízes do Supremo Tribunal Federal, Gilmar Mendes, brincou com a tese dos crimes permanentes aplicável a determinados crimes da ditadura.

“Vamos esperar que esta questão chegue ao Supremo”,

disse aos jornalistas. Enquanto isso,

“deixemos as pessoas discutirem e se divertirem com este debate”.

 

Fonte: IPS via Envolverde

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