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Brazil: Court upholds law that protects torturers

Amnesty International has today (30 April) condemned the Brazilian Supreme Court's blocking of a reinterpretation of a 1979 Amnesty Law that protects members of the former military government from being put on trial for extrajudicial killings, torture and rape.

The Supreme Federal Court judges yesterday ruled seven to two to uphold the interpretation that crimes committed by members of the military regime were political acts and therefore covered by the amnesty.

Amnesty International’s Brazil researcher Tim Cahill said:

“The ruling places a judicial stamp of approval on the pardons extended to those in the military government who committed crimes against humanity.”

“This is an affront to the memory of the thousands who were killed, tortured and raped by the state that was supposed to protect them. Victims and their relatives have again been denied access to truth, justice and reparation.”

Thousands of people were imprisoned, tortured and disappeared while the Brazil was ruled by a military government between 1964 and 1985.

Unlike Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Peru and Uruguay, Brazil has not brought to justice those accused of gross human rights violations committed during past periods of military rule.

 Tim Cahill continued:

“In a country that sees thousands of extra-judicial killings every year at the hands of security officials and where many more are tortured in police stations and prisons, this ruling clearly signals that in Brazil nobody is held responsible when the state kills and tortures its own citizens.”

The Amnesty Law puts Brazil in breach of conventional and customary international law which does not allow any exceptions when bringing perpetrators of torture and extrajudicial executions to justice.

The Inter American Court of Human Rights, recently reiterated that: “all amnesty provisions, provisions on prescription and the establishment of measures designed to eliminate responsibility are inadmissible, because they are intended to prevent the investigation and punishment of those responsible for serious human rights violations such as torture, extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and forced disappearance, all prohibited because they violate non-revocable rights recognised by international human rights law.”

The former military government issued the Amnesty Law in 1979 that exonerated all those accused of ‘political crimes and those connected to political crimes’, while excluding those who were accused of terrorism, kidnapping, robbery and attacks on individuals.

Human rights violations committed by members of the military government were interpreted as political acts and thereby covered by the amnesty, a blatant violation of international human rights law.

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