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Brazil to bring first charges for crimes committed under dictatorship

Brazilian prosecutors on Tuesday announced [press release, in Portuguese] plans to charge a retired colonel for his actions during a military dictatorship [investigation materials, PDF, in Portuguese] that ended more than 25 years ago. The colonel, Sebastiao Curio Rodrigues de Moura ("Curio") was considered to be a ruthless major who oversaw the Amazon section of the country after the military dictatorship came to power. He is being charged with the torture and killing of five guerrillas [Reuters report]. Many members of the military involved in the dictatorship have not been prosecuted due to an Amnesty Law [text, PDF, in Portuguese] that was enacted before democracy was restored to the country. While the law has not been repealed, Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) [official website] ruled in November 2010 that this amnesty law should not prevent the investigation and prosecution [JURIST report] of human rights violations that occurred during the dictatorship. In December 2010 the IACHR ruled the law was invalid because it was incompatible with the American Convention on Human Rights [text]. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] commended the prosecutors' move calling it a "landmark step for accountability" [press release]. The charges are expected to be filed later this week. JURIST Guest Columnist Caio Abramo also believes that the country has a duty to prosecute [JURIST op-ed] perpetrators of the crimes.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff [BBC profile] in November signed a law [JURIST report] establishing a truth commission to investigate human rights abuses perpetrated by the military from 1946 to 1988. In August 2011 Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] urged Brazil to repeal its amnesty law [JURIST report]. Other Latin American countries have recently taken steps to end amnesties for their military dictatorships. In March, AI urged government officials in El Salvador [JURIST report] to repeal [press release] a 1993 amnesty law that prevents any investigation [JURIST report] 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]. Last year, the Uruguayan Supreme Court struck down [JURIST report] the country’s Expiry Law, which granted amnesty to military officials accused of human rights violations during the country's 1973-1985 dictatorship. 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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