IACHR Publishes Friendly Settlement Agreement on Case Concerning the Failure to Investigate the Homicide of Trade-Union Leader José Dutra in Brazil

September 8, 2023

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has decided to approve the friendly settlement agreement concerning Case 12,673—José Dutra da Costa, Brazil—and to publish approval report 114/23.

This case concerns the Brazilian State's international responsibility for the homicide of José Dutra da Costa and the failure to investigate it and to punish its perpetrators and masterminds. Dutra da Costa was a trade-union leader and was president of the Rural Workers' Union of Rondon do Pará, in the state of Pará. The petitioning party alleges that Dutra was murdered on November 21, 2000, because of his work in defense of rural workers in the area.

On December 16, 2010, the parties signed a friendly settlement agreement, and the petitioning party asked the Commission to approve and publish it, implementing Resolution 3/20 on differential action to address procedural backlog in friendly settlement proceedings.

The agreement that was signed by the parties had 24 clauses, four of which were meant to be implemented immediately while the remaining 20 were to be implemented over time. In report 114/23, the IACHR noted the progress made concerning all clauses. It also declared that full compliance had been attained in clauses I.6 (publication of the friendly settlement agreement); III.2.10 (financial compensation); III.2.11 (pension for the widow); III.3.15 (promotion of the Protection Program for rights defenders); III.3.16 (protection measures); III.3.17 (working group to assess structural problems affecting rights defenders); III.3.18 (creation of a team to enforce arrest warrants); III.3.25 (land registration system); IV.26 (improved administrative mechanisms for expropriation and settlement); IV.27 (effective inclusion of land dispute processes in the Justice Project); and IV.28 (support for the Commission to Monitor Actions Involving Criminal Law).

The IACHR also declared that substantial partial compliance had been attained concerning clause III.3.21 (rural settlement electrification) and that partial compliance had been attained concerning clauses I.5 (event to acknowledge responsibility and memorial plaque); II.7 (priority investigation); II.8 (enforcement of arrest warrants); III.3.12 (inclusion in assistance and education programs); III.3.14 (renovation of trade-union headquarters); III.3.20 (family settlement measures); III.3.23 (infrastructure improvements in settlements); and III.3.24 (prioritized treatment of claims for land returns). Three further measures were described as still pending.

In this context, the IACHR found that this friendly settlement agreement had attained substantial partial compliance. The Commission decided to continue to supervise the areas where full compliance had not been attained, until effective implementation is achieved.

The Commission commends the Brazilian State on its efforts to solve cases that are taken before the petition and case system through the friendly settlement mechanism and on its work to achieve full implementation of this agreement. The Commission further congratulates the petitioning party for all its efforts to take part in negotiations and to promote this friendly settlement.

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. 213/23

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