IACHR Takes to Inter-American Court of Human Rights Case Concerning Brazil's Lack of Due Diligence to Investigate Murder of Rural Laborer

January 10, 2022

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) filed on November 26, 2021, an application before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in the case of Manoel Luiz da Silva, with regard to Brazil. The case concerns the State of Brazil's international responsibility for the lack of due diligence to investigate the 1997 murder of rural laborer Manoel Luiz da Silva, a member of the peasant movement Movimento Sem Terra, and for the crime's subsequent impunity.

In its Merits Report, the Commission said that the murder had without a doubt been committed by non-State actors and noted that these events had happened in a context of rights violations linked to land disputes, with rural laborers and defenders of their rights as the victims. The IACHR further concluded, however, that since there was no evidence that the State had known in advance that the victim was in imminent danger before his death, it was not possible to establish that the State was indirectly liable for the failure to enforce prevention.

Concerning State action in investigations and proceedings regarding the murder of Manoel Luiz da Silva, the IACHR noted that, although countless pieces of evidence indicated who was responsible for this crime, the police had omitted essential procedures, which in turn made it impossible to criminally prosecute the individuals responsible for this crime, including its mastermind. The Commission said that the State had failed to comply with its duty to investigate with due diligence, by failing to obtain and preserve evidence that was crucial to establish what had happened and who was responsible for those events. The IACHR found that, while some proceedings were requested that were considered crucial to establish responsibility, several of them had never been conducted.

The Commission further noted that one of the suspects had been found not guilty, that the rest had not yet been tried, that deficiencies concerning evidence had not been corrected, and that lines of investigation had not been exhausted, which was incompatible with the State's duty to investigate with due diligence. The IACHR considered that the fact that this investigation and the relevant criminal process have lasted more than 22 years amounts to a violation of timeliness and a denial of justice.

Based on these considerations, the IACHR concluded that the State of Brazil is responsible for violations of the rights held in Articles 5 (right to humane treatment), 8 (right to a fair trial), and 25 (right to judicial protection) of the American Convention on Human Rights, in keeping with the obligations held in Article 1.1 of the Convention. The Commission further found that the State is responsible for violations of the right to mental and moral integrity of members of Manoel Luiz da Silva's family.

The IACHR therefore recommended, among others, that the State provide comprehensive reparations—both material and immaterial—for the human rights violations established in the report, including redress and financial compensation; take measures to restore the physical and mental health of members of Manoel Luiz da Silva's family, if they so wish and agree to; conduct a diligent, effective, and timely investigation to completely solve this case; and take non-recurrence measures including an assessment of violence in Brazil's rural areas in connection with land disputes.

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. 008/22

12:55 PM