Thursday, July 22, 2021

A human rights challenge to Brazil's system

A case in the Supreme Federal Court of Brazil challenges 2017 legislation that gives military courts exclusive jurisdiction where civilians are victims of violence by military personnel. Details here. Excerpt:

The circumvention of the authority of a Jury Trial to judge premeditated murder committed by military personnel during GLO (Guarantee Law and Order) operations, for example, removes from civil society an important means of controlling military activity. “Within the Military Justice system, there are no external control structures, there is no civil control, nor social control over investigative agencies,” said Gabriel Sampaio, coordinator of the program to Combat Institutional Violence at Conectas. “Cases of abuse should be investigated by civil authorities and judged, in the case of willful crimes against life, by Jury Trial”.  

Moreover, “these changes introduced by Law 13,491/2017 generate a conflict between the basic principles of justice and Brazil’s obligations under international law that only authorize the limited application of military justice and only for ‘functional crimes’ [against the public administration]. There should be no different treatment for military personnel from the Armed Forces compared to police officers or even the civilian population. The crimes should be investigated and judged by civil authorities,” added Sampaio. 

In practice – in addition to violating the Federal Constitution – the law can benefit the military and create a kind of safe conduct so soldiers are not held accountable for the excesses they may commit.  In view of this, the ADI (Direct Action of Unconstitutionality) No. 5901 filed by the PSOL (Socialism and Liberty Party) in the Supreme Court challenges this authority assigned to the Military Justice system. 

Disclosure: The Editor is a signer of an amicus brief in the Supreme Court of Brazil. 

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