Washington D.C and Rio de Janeiro, March 14, 2012 – The Centre for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) welcomes the decision by federal prosecutors to press charges against Sebastião Curió Rodrigues de Moura, a member of the military, for the kidnapping of five disappeared members of the Araguaia guerrilla, an insurgency group opposed to the military dictatorship. This is an important step in the search for justice for the grave crimes committed by State and private agents in the name of military repression in Brazil. These have remained unpunished for over 30 years due to a particular interpretation of an amnesty law dating back to 1979.
The complaint filed today comes 15 months after an international decision was issued by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in the Gomes Lund vs Brazil case, also known as “the Guerrilha do Araguaia” case. The case was litigated by CEJIL as well as the Grupo Tortura Nunca Mais-RJ and the Comissão de Familiares de Mortos e Desaparecidos Políticos. The recent announcement to file a criminal complaint pertains to five of the victims mentioned in the sentence issued by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
The Inter-American Court decision that was formally announced in December 2010 condemns Brazil for the forced disappearance of 70 victims and the impunity that followed. The Court determined that a criminal investigation into the facts must be undertaken to identify and punish those responsible. Brazil was therefore ordered to adapt its norms to international standards in order to guarantee justice and truth. As a result, numerous family members of victims pressed charges at the office of the Public Prosecutor requesting an investigation into the forced disappearances of their family members. The office of the Public Prosecutor then set up a working group to establish responsibility for dictatorship crimes.
CEJIL congratulates these family members because this step forward in domestic justice is the result of their tireless struggle. Many Latin American countries have made themselves accountable for crimes committed in the past by prosecuting perpetrators of dictatorship crimes and armed conflicts. For Brazil, this step forward now depends on the Judiciary respecting international standards, processing the criminal complaint and providing justice to the families of the victims.
Brazil´s judicial authorities must now decide how they will deal with these grave violations. Forced disappearances are considered an “ongoing crime” until the person or body is found. The Inter-American Court ruled that “the provisions of the Brazilian Amnesty Law that impedes the investigation and punishment of serious human rights violations lack legal effect. As a consequence, they cannot continue to represent an obstacle in the investigation of the facts in the present case, nor for the identification and punishment of those responsible, nor can they have equal or similar impact regarding other cases of serious human rights violations.”
Thus, Viviana Krsticevic, CEJIL´s Executive Director said that “The filing of this complaint is key to ensuring that Crimes Against Humanity do not go unpunished under a political or legal pretext. Now that the prosecutors have taken this important step, the judicial authorities must demonstrate their courage and commitment to truth and justice so that the criminal investigations bear fruit.
“Brazil must see this process through and ensure that all those materially and intellectually responsible for the grave crimes committed by the military dictatorship in Brazil are investigated and prosecuted in the name of democracy”, added Beatriz Affonso, Program Director for CEJIL in Brazil.
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