IACHR Files Case with IA Court on Forced Disappearance and Sexual Violence Concerning Brazil

May 10, 2022

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Washington, D.C. — On April 22, 2022, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) filed an application with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IA Court) over the case of Cristiane Leite De Souza and others, concerning Brazil, on the forced disappearance of 10 people, some of whom were victims of sexual violence, and the lack of due diligence in the investigation and prosecution of the murder of Edméa da Silva Euzébio y Sheila da Conceição.

The ten victims were abducted in Magé in 1990 by civilian and military police. Some of them were subjected to sexual violence, then all were killed and thrown into the Estrela River. The police investigation was closed after several years due to the statute of limitations and the lack of material evidence of the crime, as the bodies were never found.

The case also concerns the murder of Ms. Edméa da Silva Euzébio and Ms. Sheila da Conceição, relatives of one of the victims, which occurred after Ms. Da Silva testified in court that police officers had taken part in the disappearances.

The IACHR deemed that there was sufficient evidence that the victims had been subjected to forced disappearance, given that the events were perpetrated by State agents and that the lack of investigation by the State led to a cover-up by the perpetrators, as a result of which the crime has not yet been clarified.

The State failed to comply with its obligation to investigate, prosecute, and punish those responsible for the disappearances within a reasonable period of time and with due diligence. The investigation lasted almost 20 years and entailed serious delays in proceedings and shortfalls in the techniques used and the evaluation of the evidence. It was closed without the whereabouts of any of the victims or of those responsible for the crimes having been identified, and without the allegation of sexual violence having been investigated.

In this sense, the IACHR concluded that the State violated the victims' right to judicial guarantees and protection and the right to equality before the law. Likewise, it failed to comply with domestic legal effects, such as by criminalizing forced disappearance in its legislation.

The IACHR also deemed that there was a link between the murder of Edméa da Silva Euzébio and Sheila Conceição and the disappearance of the victims due to their involvement in Mothers of Acarí, a movement of mothers of victims of institutional violence. It further noted that Edméa Euzébio was particularly exposed to risk because of her work as a human rights defender and her role speaking out against the disappearance of her son and seeking justice over this. The State is thus responsible for the violation of Ms. da Silva Euzébio and Ms. Conceição's rights to life, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and judicial guarantees and protection.

The IACHR found that the State of Brazil is responsible for violating articles II, XVIII, and XXIII of the American Declaration; articles 3, 4, 5, 8, 13, 16, 19, 24, and 25 of the American Convention in relation to Articles 1.1 and 2; and articles I(a), (b), and (d), and article III of the Inter-American Convention on Forced Disappearance of Persons; and articles 7(b) and 7(f) of the Convention of Belém do Pará.

In its merits report, the IACHR made the following recommendations:

  1. Provide moral and material redress for the human rights violations in question.
  2. Provide physical and mental healthcare measures for the victims' relatives, in consultation with them.
  3. Investigate the facts diligently, effectively, and within a reasonable period of time in order to establish the victims' whereabouts and, if necessary, hand over their mortal remains; identify those responsible for their murder, and punish them.
  4. Protect and promote the human rights work carried out by the Mothers of Acarí.
  5. Criminalize forced disappearance, according to inter-American standards.
  6. Provide for nonrepetition mechanisms that include: investigating, conceptualizing, and dismantling the role of "militias" and State agents in Rio de Janeiro and Magé; and promoting an intersectional, gender approach in investigations, avoiding stigmatizing people by referring to them as "marginalized" or "delinquents," particularly young people of African descent.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 098/22

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