Brazil: judge agrees to first war crimes trial for members of dictatorship

A Brazilian federal judge in Pará on Aug. 31 agreed to conduct the first trial against members of the former dictatorship for alleged crimes during the military’s rule from 1964-1985. The defendants are two retired army reserve members, Col. Sebastiao de Moura and Maj. Licio Maciel, accused of kidnappings during suppression of the guerilla movement in the Araguaia region between 1972 and 1975. The judge agreed with prosecutors that Brazil’s 1979 amnesty law, which provides amnesty for members of the government and military alleged to have committed political crimes between 1961 and 1975, does not apply because bodies of the alleged kidnapping victims were never found, and the cases are therefore still technically open.

In June the Brazilian government issued an official apology to more than 120 former political prisoners of the military regime. In May a freedom of information law took effect in the country to increase government transparency on the same day that President Dilma Rousseff swore in a truth commission to investigate war crimes under the military regime. Rights groups, including Amnesty International have encouraged Brazil to revoke the amnesty law, and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in 2010 found the law to be invalid. This, however, was after the Brazil Supreme Court ruled to reject a motion by the Brazilian Bar Association to modify the law to allow trial for officials accused of human rights abuses.

From Jurist, Sept. 1. Used with permission.

Of the Southern Cone nations, Argentina has made the most progress in obtaining justice for the atrocities of the Dirty War period.