IACHR Files Application Before Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Case Concerning Brazil

May 25, 2023

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) filed on May 17, 2022, an application before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights with regard to Brazil, in a case concerning the arbitrary arrests and torture of political activists Denise Peres Crispim and Eduardo Collen Leite and the extrajudicial killing of Eduardo Collen Leite in the context of the country's civilian–military dictatorship.

Denise Peres Crispim, who was pregnant at the time, and her husband Eduardo Collen Leite were arrested and tortured by the Army in 1970. She was released after giving birth, while he was killed by an Army major, following orders from a colonel. Denise Peres Crispim and her daughter later sought refuge abroad. While in exile, Peres Crispim was sentenced by a military court to 10 years in prison and deprived of her political rights.

In its Merits Report, the Commission noted that Eduardo Collen Leite's arrest had been arbitrary, because there was no evidence that an arrest warrant had ever been issued against him, nor that he had ever been caught in the act. The victim was never notified of the reasons for his arrest, and he was not taken before a judge. His death was an extrajudicial killing, since he was in State custody and since the State of Brazil did not contest the claim that he had been executed following orders from an Army colonel.

The Commission found that Denise Peres Crispim had also been subjected to an arbitrary arrest and torture and that she had suffered disproportionately because she was pregnant and vulnerable at the time. The IACHR noted that the right to humane treatment of her daughter Eduarda had also been violated.

The Commission found that the State had failed to investigate these events with due diligence. Ordinary courts had closed the investigation into allegations of torture and extrajudicial killing concerning Eduardo Collen Leite, applying a statute of limitations and a specific interpretation of Act 6,683/79 (Amnesty Act) that are both incompatible with Brazil's obligations in this matter and left these crimes unpunished.

The IACHR therefore concluded that the Brazilian State was liable for violations of the rights held in Articles I, VII, VIII, XVIII, XIX, XXII, and XXV of the American Declaration and in Articles 5.1, 8.1, and 25.1 of the American Convention on Human Rights, concerning the obligations held in Articles 1.1 and 2 of that instrument, as well as of Articles 1, 6, and 8 of the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture and Article 7(b) of the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women (Convention of Belém do Pará).

In its Merits Report, the Commission recommended that the State take the following action:

  1. Provide comprehensive reparations to the victims, both material and immaterial.
  2. Provide any physical and mental healthcare necessary for the rehabilitation of the victims' families, in agreement with them.
  3. Conduct a serious, diligent, and effective investigation, in a reasonable period of time, to establish what happened to Denise Peres Crispim and Eduardo Collen Leite, in order to identify and punish the people responsible for these crimes (in particular, (a) re-open and pursue an investigation in ordinary criminal-law courts; (b) take into consideration the pattern of human rights violations that was prevalent at the time; (c) refrain from applying the Amnesty Act or any other similar disposition, statute of limitations, res judicata or any other exemption of responsibility to perpetrators, since this case involves serious human rights violations; (d) enable the resources needed to gather and process evidence for this investigation; (e) guarantee the safety of family members involved in this investigation and the subsequent criminal proceedings; (f) conduct an investigation into what happened to Denise Peres Crispim with a gender perspective, considering these events as violence against women, with the fact that she was pregnant as aggravating circumstances).
  4. Ensure that Act 6,683/79 (Amnesty Act), the statute of limitations, and the application of military criminal justice do not continue to be hurdles that preclude criminal investigations into serious human rights violations like those involved in this case.

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. 096/23

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