Brazil top court upholds dictatorship amnesty law

BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazil’s Supreme Court rejected a case yesterday that could have opened the way for prosecutions of officials who committed crimes such as torture during the country’s 1964-1985 military dictatorship.

The 7-to-2 ruling maintains a legal consensus that the country’s Amnesty Law, passed by a compliant Congress in 1979, protects those accused of human rights abuses during the dictatorship.

Human rights activists had said a ruling in favour of a reinterpretation of the law would have marked a major step forward for Brazil, which has lagged other Latin American countries in prosecuting dictator-era abuses.

The military has long opposed any change to the law’s interpretation and neither of the two leading candidates for October’s presidential election have supported changing the law.

Government lawyers defending the law said it could not be changed retroactively because it was an integral part of the country’s reconciliation process.

The Brazil Order of Attorneys had argued in its case that the law should not be interpreted to cover crimes such as murder, abuse of authority, rape and other violent acts. “Unfortunately, the Supreme Court understood that the amnesty law amnesties torturers, which in our view is a step backwards in relation to fundamental precepts of the constitution and international conventions,” the group’s president Ophir Cavalcante was quoted as saying on the O Globo newspaper’s website.

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