IACHR refers case on Brazil to the Inter-American Court

February 19, 2021

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Washington, D.C.- On February 6, 2021, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) referred the case of Antonio Tavares Pereira et al., regarding Brazil, before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The case refers to the murder of rural worker Antonio Tavares Pereira and the injuries suffered by 185 other workers belonging to the Landless Rural Workers' Movement (MST for its Portuguese acronym) by military police officers during the repression of a march for agrarian reform held on May 2, 2000 in the State of Paraná. The case, which also refers to the impunity with respect to these acts, is framed in a context of violence linked to demands for agrarian reform in Brazil.

In its Report on the Merits, the Commission concluded that the Brazilian State did not provide an explanation that would allow it to consider that the death of Mr. Tavares Pereira was the result of the legitimate use of force. On the contrary, the Commission emphasized that there is no dispute on three fundamental aspects: i) that the shot that caused the death came from a military police officer; ii) that the officer did not act in self-defense, but rather to frighten the demonstrators; and iii) that the shot was fired when the victim was unarmed. These elements, taken together, are sufficient to demonstrate that the shooting by the military police officer did not have a legitimate purpose, nor was it suitable, necessary and proportional.

In view of the fact that the injuries caused to the other 185 victims were the result of shots fired by the same military police officers who stopped the buses on their way to the city of Curitiba, the Commission considered that the foregoing analysis on the shot that caused the death of Mr. Tavares Pereira and the excessive use of force, is also applicable to the international responsibility of the State for such injuries.

On the other hand, the IACHR established that the authorities were informed, by different means, of the acts that the MST rural workers would carry out. Specifically, the authorities knew of the imminence of a popular march and demonstration on the day of the events and, instead of taking measures to protect the demonstrators, they alerted the military police to prevent the exercise of their rights of assembly, freedom of expression and movement.

In relation to the investigation of the facts, the Commission concluded that the intervention of the military criminal justice system constituted a factor of impunity so that the victims could have an effective remedy, and that this jurisdiction violated the right to have an impartial authority to obtain justice in the case of a human rights violation. The Commission also considered that this was not remedied in the ordinary jurisdiction, given that the criminal action for the crime of homicide was dismissed based on the decision of the military justice system. Regarding the 185 injured victims, the Commission concluded that the State did not prove that it had acted with due diligence to investigate the injuries and identify the wounded.

On the other hand, in relation to a civil action filed by the next of kin of Antonio Tavares Pereira in 2002, declared admissible in 2010, the Commission indicated that, at the time of the adoption of the merits report, it did not have information on whether the compensation had actually been paid despite the exhaustion of various remedies to achieve enforcement. Based on this, the Commission concluded that the remedy was not effective and that it did not comply with the guarantee of reasonable time. Finally, the Commission established that the death of Mr. Tavares Pereira caused suffering and anguish to the next of kin, in violation of their right to psychological and moral integrity.

Based on these findings, the Commission concluded that the Brazilian State is responsible for the violation of the rights enshrined in Articles 4(1) (right to life), 5(1) (personal integrity), 13 (freedom of thought and expression), 15 (right of assembly), 22 (right of movement and residence), 8(1) (judicial guarantees) and 25(1) (judicial protection) of the American Convention, in relation to its Articles 1(1) and 2, to the detriment of the persons indicated in the Merits Report.

In its Merits Report, the Commission recommended that the State:

1. Make full reparations to the direct victims in this case and to the next of kin of Antonio Tavares Pereira: his wife Maria Sebastiana Barbosa Pereira, and their children, Ana Lúcia Barbosa Pereira, Ana Cláudia Barbosa Pereira, Samuel Paulo Barbosa Pereira and Ana Ruth Barbosa Pereira, through measures of pecuniary compensation and satisfaction that cover the material and non-material damages caused as a consequence of the violations described in the Merits Report.

2. To provide the physical and mental health care measures necessary for the rehabilitation of the 185 direct victims of the present case and the next of kin of Antonio Tavares Pereira, if they so wish and with their agreement.

3. Undertake a diligent, impartial and effective investigation, within a reasonable period of time, to fully clarify the facts and impose appropriate sanctions for the human rights violations described in the report.

4. Provide training measures for security forces acting in the context of demonstrations and protests. These trainings should be of a permanent nature and include human rights curricula that, especially, contain the standards of the report, in order to be aware of the principles of exceptionality, necessity and proportionality to which the use of force must conform.

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. 036/21