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

A Brazilian federal judge in Para on Friday agreed to conduct the first trial against members of its former dictatorship for alleged crimes during the military's rule from 1964-1985. The defendants [AP report] are two retired army reserve members, Colonel Sebastiao de Moura and Major Licio Maciel, accused of kidnappings during suppression of the Araguaia guerilla movement between 1972 and 1975. The judge agreed with prosecutors that Brazil's 1979 amnesty law [GLIN summary], which provides amnesty for members of the government and military who allegedly committed political crimes between 1961 and 1975, does not apply because bodies of the alleged kidnapping victims were never found, so the cases are still open.

In June the Brazilian government issued an official apology [JURIST report] 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 [JURIST reports] to investigate war crimes during the military regime's era. Rights groups, including Amnesty International [advocacy website] have encouraged the country to revoke the amnesty law [JURIST report], and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights [official website, in Spanish] found it to be invalid [JURIST report] in 2010. This, however, was after the Brazil Supreme Court ruled to reject a motion [NYT report] by the Brazilian Bar Association to modify the law to allow trial for officials accused of human rights abuses, stating that the law should not be modified by the court because it was originally passed by the whole country.

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