Vladimir Herzog was born in 1937 at the former Yugoslavia and in 1946 he and his family migrated to Brazil. Herzog went on to become a well-known journalist in São Paulo and worked for the public television channel “TV Cultura” in 1974. His role as a journalist and the suspicion of his association with the Brazilian Communist Party motivated his surveillance by military agents.
On October 24, 1975, Herzog was summoned by agents of the Second Army’s Department of Information Operations of the Center for Internal Defense Operations of São Paulo (DOI-CODI) to give a statement at the institution’s headquarters regarding his involvement with the BCP. He appeared voluntarily the following day to offer a statement, at which point he was arbitrarily detained without warrant, tortured, and ultimately killed. Military officials framed his death as a suicide, but testimonies and further scientific examinationappointed that Herzog was tortured. He was the father of two young boys and was 38 years old at the time of his death.
Due to public pressure, the Command of the Second Army issues an order to “determine the circumstances surrounding the suicide of journalist Vladimir Herzog” on October 31, 1975. The investigation opened that day was characterized by biased procedures and unlawful practices, and was closed on March 8, 1976 following the conclusion that no crime had been committed. For two other times investigations were initiated without any conclusion or denunciation to the justice system on account of the immobilization of Amnesty Law interpretation. Faced with this inadequate investigation, the case of Herzog’s detention, torture, and extrajudicial execution was taken to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) by CEJIL on July 10, 2009. The Commission declared Brazil’s responsibility for violating Herzog’s rights to personal integrity and freedom of expression, as the right to a fair trial and to judicial protection, and due to the State ’s failure to comply with the recommendations, the Commission presented the case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on April 22, 2016.
Herzog’s death had a significant social impact, as it helped publicly reveal the shocking human rights violations and abuses of power committed by military agents throughout the dictatorship. These violations and abuses included the arbitrary detention, torture, censorship, and extrajudicial execution of dissidents, with the intention of eliminating resistance to the military regime. Herzog’s case helped to discredit the image of prosperity that the military had worked to propagate, and helped expose the reality of the regime’s systematic pattern of repression under which an estimated 50,000 were arbitrarily detained and hundreds were killed in politically-motivated extrajudicial executions. The Amnesty Law of 1979 has been a major obstacle and has caused the ongoing impunity for the crimes committed against Herzog and many other victims who suffered from similar violations during the military regime.