Posted by Hilary Marie Johnson
Brazil’s new Attorney General, Rodrigo Janot, has recently signaled an important change in the interpretation of the Amnesty Law of 1979. In a document sent to the Supreme Court regarding the extradition of an Argentine ex-police officer, Attorney General Janot observes that the Brazilian amnesty must be subject to international conventions, both those that deal with the issue at hand as well as others under which Brazil is a signatory.
This is the first time that an Attorney General (Procurador-geral) has spoken up about the matter, openly encouraging the re-opening of the debate regarding surround the 2010 Supreme Court Verdict, which stipulated that amnesty would benefit both the politically persecuted as well as their political persecutors.
Attorney General Janot’s interpretation contradicts that of his predecessor, Roberto Gurgel. Former Attorney General Gurgel maintained that amnesty, the result of a long national debate, sought to make the transition from authoritarian-military regime to democratic regime more feasible, and thus encompassed crimes “of any nature”. Attorney General Janot, in contrast, asserts that amnesty for those accused of torture cannot be justified in the name of democratic transition.
The Argentine ex-police officer in question is accused of torture and other crimes during the military dictatorship in Argentina (1972-1977) and sought refuge in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, where he was later found. Attorney General Janot defends the imprisonment and extradition of the Argentine, basing his argument on the consensus of the Inter-American Court that authors of crimes against humanity must be held accountable for their actions. He also states that this is an imperative standard of international law, and so it also applies to Brazil.
Attorney General Janot’s ruling has been well-received by prosecutors working in the area of Transitional Justice. One prosecutor reminded the State that former Attorney General Gurgel has already set a precedent when ruling in favor of the extradition of three other Argentines accused of kidnapping and the forced disappearances of political opponents.
On October 21st, 2013, Supreme Court Justice Marco Aurélio Mello affirmed that the tribunal could change its decisions regarding the Amnesty Law if the matter was ruled upon by the new members of the court.
Attorney General Janot’s ruling has extended the amnesty debate in Brazil. Nevertheless, when sought out by the State, he declined to comment, save for reiterating that his arguments are clearly stated in the manuscript sent to the Supreme Court.