Inter-American Court of Human Rights opens case against Brazil for the death of journalist Vladimir Herzog

By Giovana Sanchez

On April 22, 2016, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights received a complaint against the Brazilian State for the 1975 death of journalist Vladimir Herzog during the country’s military dictatorship. According to the newspaper O Globo"the Federal Attorney General has already been notified" and the Court must now hear from those involved to decide whether to accept the complaint.

Brazil is charged with failure to punish those responsible for the torture and death of Herzog, which occurred one day after his arrest at the headquarters of Department of Information Operations in São Paulo on Oct. 25, 1975. A military investigation done at the time concluded the journalist had committed suicide, an idea always refuted by his family and human rights activists in the country.

In 40 years, no one has been charged, tried or punished for Herzog's death.

Two attempts were made by the prosecution to open investigations to clarify the death (in 1992 and 2008). The first was archived because of claims that it would go against the amnesty law and the second because the crime was prescribed (the State ran out of time to make a decision on the case.)

In 2009, the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), the Inter-American Foundation for the Defense of Human Rights and the group Torture Never More of São Paulo took the case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which sent it to the Court. The move by the Commission is mandatory for the complaint to be sent to the Court.

The Cejil and the journalist's family disagree that the Amnesty Law and the fact that the case was prescribed are sufficient to prevent the State from reopening the investigation, Zero Hora reported.

"It is absurd to grant amnesty to torture and execution made by state agents. This harms Brazil's image, especially because other nearby countries have more correct posture,” said Nemércio Nogueira, director of the Vladimir Herzog Institute.

Also according to Zero Hora, the Court has said that cases can take an average of almost two years to receive a final decision.

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.