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Brazil urged to revoke amnesty law

Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] on Friday urged the Brazilian government to revoke [press release] the 1979 Amnesty Law [text, PDF, in Spanish], which shields military officials from prosecution for crimes committed during the country's 1964-1985 military dictatorship. In December, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights [official website, in Spanish] ruled that the amnesty law is invalid [JURIST report] and that Brazil is responsible for the disappearance of 61 people during military dictatorship. The court found that the law was incompatible with the American Convention on Human Rights [text] and ordered the Brazilian government to conduct a criminal investigation into an anti-guerrilla military operation in the Araguaia region between 1972 and 1974. However, the law has not been revoked, and a proposal for the creation of a truth commission to investigate crimes committed during the military regime has yet to be put before Congress. AI Americas Director Susan Lee said the "law is a scandal and doing nothing but preventing justice." She called on Brazil to uphold its international human rights commitments and immediately revoke the law.

Other Latin American countries have also been working to revoke amnesty laws. In May, Uruguay's House of Representatives failed to overturn the country's amnesty law, despite it passing [JURIST reports] the Senate in April. The IACHR effectively overturned the law [JURIST report] in April when it ruled that Uruguay's government must bring to justice those responsible for the disappearance of a woman abducted by Uruguay government forces in 1976. In November, the Uruguayan Supreme Court [official website, in Spanish] found the law to be unconstitutional [JURIST report]. In March 2010, AI urged government officials in El Salvador to repeal a 1993 amnesty law that prevents any investigation [JURIST reports] into killings committed during the country's 12-year civil war [PBS backgrounder], including the killing of respected Catholic Archbishop Oscar Romero [BBC backgrounder, JURIST news archive]. In 2005, Argentina's Supreme Court struck down similar amnesty laws [JURIST report] adopted in the 1980s to protect potential defendants, prompting the government to reopen hundreds of human rights cases.

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