Bar Association of Brazil strategizes changes to Amnesty Law

May 28, 2013
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Brazil’s Amnesty Law

Brazil’s Amnesty Law was passed in 1979 as a way to bring exiled activists back into the country while protecting officials who may have violated human rights prior to 1979 from prosecution. Because the country was ruled by military dictatorship starting in 1964, this was a way to secure officials who served under that regime and clear them of any wrongdoing that may have transpired during their years in service.

While the law has stood in place for more than three decades, its current state has caused unrest among various citizens and political activists throughout the country. In 2010, a case was brought to the Brazilian Supreme Court to modify the validity of the Amnesty Law, which currently protects those charged with torture during the military regime. Many wanted to remove that clause in the law so that those accused of such crimes could stand trial, but the Supreme Court denied the request.

Three months ago, the Bar Association of Brazil (OAB) went to the Minister Luiz Fux, Rapporteur of the appeal of the OAB, asking to be heard. However, before the Supreme Court was able to review and analyze the appeal, the OAB dropped the case. Today, the organization is studying an alternative to a straight appeal, which may have a better chance of making an impact on the Supreme Court.

The OAB believes its actions could force Brazil to comply with a number of international treaties. For example, the Pact of San José, Costa Rica and the Treaty of Rome, of which Brazil is a signatory, are currently being violated by Brazil’s Amnesty Law. At the very least, the OAB is adament that this be amended as soon as possible, so that the country doesn’t perform any illegal international incidents.

The belief is that simple adjustments, which would not require a full appeal, could be enough to change the way some state officials are treated, particularly those involved in crimes that are still ongoing.

Whether changes are made to the Amnesty Law remains to be seen. However, regardless of what eventually transpires between the Supreme Court and the OAB, any individual or organization looking to do business in Brazil will have to obtain a firm understanding of the country’s laws. Lawyers in Brazil can help with this effort by sharing important information regarding any and all Brazilian legal matters.

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