The Brazilian government today presented formally to the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, the instrument of ratification of the Inter-American Convention on Forced Disappearance of Persons, which was formally deposited in the Organization on February 3.
Upon delivering to the document signed by President Dilma Rousseff to the headquarters of the OAS in Washington, DC, the Acting Representative of Brazil to the Organization, Ambassador Breno de Souza Dias da Costa, reaffirmed his country's commitment not to practice, permit or tolerate the forced disappearance of persons, and to pursue its actors, accomplices or accessories. In addition, he reiterated the express will of the Brazilian government to "expand opportunities for cooperation with our neighbors to eliminate this crime."
In his address, Ambassador Dias da Costa said that as part of the Convention, "States commit themselves to adopt the necessary legislative measures to criminalize disappearances and to impose appropriate sentences," and reported that the Brazilian Congress is working on a bill that proposes the criminalization of the crime of forced disappearance of persons, imposes penalties that can reach 30 years in prison and puts that offense at the same level of other heinous crimes, such as terrorism or torture.
"The ratification of this Convention by Brazil adds to the work of the Special Committee on Political Deaths and Disappearances, established with the aim of examining and recognizing cases or occurrences of the disappearance of people in the country before 1988," he explained, and concluded expressing that the ratification of the Convention "shows a willingness to take strong measures to prevent, investigate and punish the forced disappearance of persons, which contributes significantly to the elimination of this practice in our Hemisphere."
The Secretary General, meanwhile, described the ratification by Brazil as an act "of great magnitude in combating a crime that we hope is in the past of our countries."
The head of the hemispheric Organization recalled the elements constituting forced disappearance under the Convention, including: the deprivation of liberty and presence of one or more persons; the acts committed by agents of the State or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization, support or acquiescence of the State; lack of information or a refusal to acknowledge that deprivation of freedom or to give information on the whereabouts of the person; and impeding the exercise of legal recourses and pertinent guarantees of process. In this regard, he added that "this is a human rights convention that relates very directly to events occurring in our region and happily, in the democratic period we live in today they occur much less frequently."
Upon expressing his gratitude to Brazil, the Secretary General recalled that, just as stated in the Convention, "the international protection of human rights is an adjunct nature of domestic law," and as such, he continued, "the efforts of Brazil to amend its legislation and enforce this legislation domestically are of great importance." He also expressed his hope that the ratification by Brazil will help the initiative to be better known and disseminated to other member countries of the Organization.
The Inter-American Convention on Forced Disappearance of Persons was adopted in Belém do Pará, Brazil, on June 9, 1994, during the Twenty-Fourth Regular Session of the General Assembly of the OAS. The Convention entered into force on 28 March 1996 and now has 15 ratifications: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.
More information about the state of signings and ratifications of treaties deposited at the OAS General Secretariat is available here.
A gallery of photos of the event is available here.
The B-Roll of the event is available here.
For more information, please visit the OAS Website at www.oas.org.