Brazil violated information rights of families "disappeared" by military, int’l. court rules

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  • December 16, 2010

By Maira Magro

An unprecedented legal ruling announced this week holds Brazil responsible for the forced disappearance of more than 70 opponents of the military dictatorship (1964–1985) and says the government has violated the right of family members “to seek and receive information and to learn the truth.”

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled that Brazilian state security agents had disappeared at least 70 peasants and militants who belonged to the Araguaia guerrilla movement in an isolated region of Amazonia in the early 1970s. (See the complete ruling in Spanish in PDF.)

Brazil has never sentenced anyone for abuses committed during the dictatorship, and its Supreme Court ruled this year that a 1979 Amnesty Law protects torturers from prosecution. But the Inter-American court, based in Costa Rica, ruled that the Amnesty Law was incompatible with Brazil's international commitments under the American Convention on Human Rights, Reuters explains.

The Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), which represented the victims in the case, says the court “significantly advanced the requirements for the protection of the right to access information, including the principle of maximum disclosure and the need to justify any refusal to provide information.”

The ruling—which is binding due to Brazil’s signing of the American Convention on Human Rights— says the government must seek and publish all information about the Araguaia Guerrilla movement and human rights violations that occurred during the military regime.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.