Press Release

IACHR Brings Brazil Case before the IA Court

11 november, 2019

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Washington, D.C. - On July 11, 2019, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) filed an application with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IA Court) over case 12.263, Márcia Barbosa de Souza and her family, concerning Brazil.

The case relates to state responsibility for events related to the death of Márcia Barbosa de Souza in June 1998 at the hands of a former state deputy, Aércio Pereira de Lima, and for the impunity surrounding the event. The IACHR concluded that parliamentary immunity brought about a discriminatory delay in the trial of Aércio Pereira de Lima and constituted a violation of the rights to a fair trial, the principle of equality and nondiscrimination, and the judicial protection of the right to life, to the detriment of Márcia Barbosa de Souza’s mother and father. The IACHR also concluded that the fact that the nine years it took for the investigation into Márcia Barbosa de Souza’s death and subsequent criminal proceedings to take place resulted in a denial of justice and thus in a violation of the rights to a fair trial and judicial protection of the right to life, to the detriment of the victim’s mother and father.

Furthermore, the IACHR noted that although the authorities ordered a series of procedures to clarify all responsibilities, several of these were simply never implemented, without this omission ever being justified. The IACHR deemed that the shortcomings in evidence had not been remedied and that all lines of investigation had not been exhausted, such that the outcome was incompatible with the duty to conduct investigations with due diligence.

The IACHR also concluded that what took place was a murder resulting from serious acts of violence against women, which in itself affects the psychological integrity of Márcia Barbosa de Souza’s family members. The IACHR also determined that this integrity was affected by the fact that after being subjected to severe acts of violence, the victim was killed and her corpse tossed into an vacant lot, and by shortcomings in the investigation into other suspects, the delay in opening the case and initiating proceedings against Aércio Pereira de Lima to sanction this violence, and the impunity surrounding the crime, which culminated in Aércio Pereira de Lima being given a state funeral when he died nearly ten years after the events in question. In light of these considerations, the IACHR concluded that the state of Brazil is also responsible for the violation of the right to psychological and moral integrity to the detriment of Márcia Barbosa de Souza’s mother and father.

The IACHR recommended that the state take the following reparation measures:

1. Provide comprehensive redress for the human rights violations set out in the report;

2. Provide the physical and mental healthcare measures needed to help Márcia Barbosa de Souza’s mother and father with the recovery process, should they so wish, and that any such measures should be agreed upon with them;

3. Reopen the investigation within a reasonable period of time and pursue it diligently and effectively in order to completely clarify events, identify all those who may be responsible for the murder and the delays that led to the impunity around it, taking the necessary measures to remedy the shortcomings in the initial investigations into other perpetrators;

4. Provide mechanisms of nonrepetition that include: i) adapting Brazil’s domestic regulatory framework to ensure that the immunity of senior state officials, including parliamentary immunity, is duly regulated and limited to the ends it seeks to fulfill, and that the legislation itself contains the safeguards needed to ensure that it is not itself an obstacle to the prompt, due investigation into human rights violations; (ii) ensuring that the decisions of the relevant bodies relating to the applicability of immunity for senior state officials in specific cases are based on solid grounds and comply with the standards set out in this merits report; and (iii) continuing to take all the measures needed to comply fully with the Maria da Penha Law and implement all the legislative, administrative, and public policy measures needed to prevent, investigate into, and sanction violence against women in Brazil.

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. 282/19