By Milli Legrain, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – In what has now become a world-famous case, one taken up by human rights campaigners including Amnesty International, 25 members of the Military Police have now been accused of involvement in the alleged death of Rocinha resident Amarildo de Souza who disappeared in July.
Eyewitness reports of torture and concealing the body continue to emerge and have already led to the imprisonment of the favela’s UPP unit commander Major Edson Santos.
More details of the last hours of the bricklayer, detained on suspicion of involvement with members of a drug gang, came to light this week when four female officers stepped forward to talk to the State Public Prosecutor. Their original accounts, as revealed by Globo News, were falsified at the insistence of their superiors.
This week, Alexandre Ciconello from Amnesty International Brazil told The Rio Times why the case stands out. “It made public that torture and summary executions are part of the modus operandi of the military police in Brazil,” he said.
“Major Edson Santos denied the facts and pressured his subordinates to construct false versions of the crime that criminalized Amarildo and his family, seeking to associate them with drug trafficking. Witnesses were threatened and others were compensated for falsifying testimonies,” he continued.
Amarildo´s case is apparently not alone. According to figures presented to The Rio Times by Amnesty International, in Rio de Janeiro State alone, as many as 233 homicides resulting from police intervention were registered this year between January and July. There have been a total of 3,677 disappearances in the same period.
A law on “forced disappearances”, a crime which in legal terms is effectively committed until a body is actually found, is soon to reach Brazil´s Chamber of Deputies, after being passed by the Senate two months ago.
Senator Pedro Taques, a professor of constitutional rights who has spearheaded the project, said that the law would bring Brazil into compliance with the 2010 decision of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the Inter-American Convention on Forced Disappearances. If passed, those found guilty of involvement in forced disappearances could face up to thirty years in prison or more.
The Inter-American Court ruling which orders Brazil to create the law is the result of the case known as the ‘Guerilha de Araguaia’ (or ‘Gomes Lund v. Brazil’) regarding the forced disappearance of 70 peasants and militants during the military dictatorship.
Yet as Beatriz Affonso from the Center for Justice and International Law explained to The Rio Times, “Brazil urgently needs a law which covers crimes committed by the State because the crimes typically perpetrated under the dictatorship are still being carried out today.”
While Amarildo de Souza’s body has still to be found, human rights activists hope that the law on forced disappearances will be passed by the Chamber of Deputies before the end of the year, and could, therefore, apply to anyone charged in the case.