The United Nations human rights office today welcomed the prosecution of a retired Brazilian army colonel for disappearances during the country’s military dictatorship as a “first and crucial step” in fighting the impunity that surrounds that period.
Prosecutors in Brazil announced this week that they will charge Sebastião Curió Rodrigues de Moura with aggravated kidnapping in relation to the disappearance of five members of the Araguaia guerrilla movement who were detained in 1974. The charges must still be approved by a judge before the case can go to trial.
This is the first time that Brazil is prosecuting human rights violations committed during the military dictatorship period, according to OHCHR. Previous attempts have been blocked by interpretations of the 1979 amnesty law.
That law was struck down in 2010 by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which ruled that it is invalid and that criminal investigations and prosecutions must proceed.
Last November High Commissioner Navi Pillay welcomed the creation of a Truth Commission to investigate human rights abuses committed during military rule, calling it “an essential and welcome first step towards healing the country’s wounds and clarifying past wrongs.” She had also encouraged Brazil to take measures to facilitate prosecutions and repeal the amnesty law.
In addition, Uruguay has overturned a de facto amnesty law and Argentina has handed down hundreds of rulings to perpetrators of gross human rights violations.