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Brazil: Open Letter to the Minister of Justice, Mr. José Eduardo Cardozo, and the President of the Superior Court of Justice of Brazil, Mr. Felix Fischer

Publisher International Federation for Human Rights
Publication Date 22 November 2013
Cite as International Federation for Human Rights, Brazil: Open Letter to the Minister of Justice, Mr. José Eduardo Cardozo, and the President of the Superior Court of Justice of Brazil, Mr. Felix Fischer, 22 November 2013, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/52de4d54b.html [accessed 24 July 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Last Update 22 November 2013

Re: Concerns about the postponement of the trial to establish the criminal responsibility of the perpetrators of Mr. Manoel Bezerra de Mattos' assassination

Geneva-Paris, November 22, 2013

Your Excellencies,

The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), in the framework of their joint programme, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, are respectfully writing to you to express concern regarding the deferral of the initiation of the trial that would determine the criminal responsibility of Messrs. José da Silva Martins, Sérgio Paulo da Silva, Flávio Inácio Pereira, Cláudio Roberto Borges and José Nílson Borges, the five alleged perpetrators of the assassination on January 24, 2009 of Mr. Manoel Bezerra de Mattos, a lawyer and human rights defender who denounced the actions of death squads that operate on the border between Paraiba and Pernambuco States.

Although the trial was expected to be held on November 18, 2013, it was postponed until December 5, 2013 due to the lack of the needed quorum of 15 present jurors. Out of 25 pre-selected jurors, seven were not notified because their addresses were missing and out of the 18 that were present on November 18, six asked for an exemption based on health reasons. The President of the Human Rights Commission of the Brazilian Bar Association in Paraíba hinted that the members of the jury who requested a dispensation would be scared of participating in such an emblematic process, which could set a precedent in the country.

The Observatory recalls that in August 2009, the Attorney General of the Republic accepted to transfer the investigation and trial for the assassination of Mr. Manoel Bezerra de Mattos to Federal Justice. In October 2010, the Supreme Court of Justice decided to federalise the case, through the Incidente de Deslocamento de Competência (IDC), which allows serious violations of human rights to be tried by Federal Courts rather than by State Courts, pursuant Article 109 of the Brazilian Federal Constitution. This became the first case to be federalised in Brazil, a big milestone.

The Observatory further recalls that despite the fact that Mr. Manoel Bezerra de Mattos had been benefiting from Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) precautionary measures since 2002, Brazil had not implemented them in a satisfactory manner. Moreover, organisations that played a key role in the federalisation of the investigation into the killing of Mr. Bezerra Mattos in Itame city, such as the human rights non-governmental organisations Dignitatis – Technical Advisory People (Dignitatis- Assessoria Técnica Popular) and Global Justice (Justiça Global), have been harassed as reprisals[1].

The Observatory expresses its concerns about the delay of the above-mentioned hearing and wishes to emphasise that this is an extraordinary opportunity for the Brazilian Government to show its commitment to respect for human rights, acknowledgement of the importance of the work of human rights defenders and determination to end impunity in Brazil, in conformity with international human rights standards and Brazil's obligations.

Accordingly, the Observatory calls upon the Brazilian authorities to take all necessary steps to ensure that those responsible for the assassination of Mr. Manoel Bezerra de Mattos are brought before an independent tribunal and that the sanctions provided by the law are applied to them; as well as to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Bezerra de Mattos' family and, in general, of all human rights defenders in Brazil.

More generally, the Observatory calls upon the authorities in Brazil to conform with the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, and to ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Brazil.

We express our sincere hope that you will take these considerations and requests into account.

Yours sincerely,

Gerald Staberock
OMCT Secretary General

Karim Lahidji
FIDH President

[1] See Observatory Urgent Appeal BRA 001/0311/OBS048, March 25, 2011 and Annual Report 2011.

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