On 14 March 2012, seven prosecutors of the working group “Transitional Justice” who were working on the crimes committed during the military regime, launched criminal proceedings against colonels Sebastiao Rodrigues de Moura and Licio Augusto Maciel for the enforced disappearance of 5 activists between January and September 1974: Maria Célia Corrêa, Hélio Luiz Navarro Magalhães, Daniel Ribeiro Callado, Antônio de Pádua Costa and Telma Regina Cordeira Corrêa. According to the prosecutors, this complaint was based on the proceeding of criminal investigation opened in 2009 by the Marabá Office of the Prosecutor.
It is the first time that such proceedings are undertaken in Brazil, where an amnesty law is in force since 1979, before the democracy was established . In December 2010, this law, which has already protected many members of the army involved in the dictatorship, has been declared invalid by the Interamerican Court of Human Rights, because it was incompatible with the American Convention on Human Rights. It was however not repealed by Brazil.
The criminal proceedings were launched in the city of Maraba, in the amazonian State of Para, where the Araguaia guerilla was acting in the years 1970. Rodrigues de Moura is charged with the abduction of five activists during the repression against the Araguaia guerilla in 1974, still missing to date.
According to a statement of the prosecutor, those five activists abducted by Rodriguez de Moura’s troops were sent to military bases where they were mentally and physically tortured before they disappeared.
The prosecutor said that the offences of sequestration and occultation of corpses were not covered by the amnesty law, given that they are permanent crimes still being committed today. Indeed, according to them, so long as the victim does not reappear (dead or alive), the abduction is still being committed and, so long as their authors refuse to tell where the bodies have been buried, they are still committing the offence of occultation of corpses. It is on this basis that the complaint has been brought, despite the amnesty law which covers crimes committed until the 15 August 1979.
However, on 16 March 2012, the federal justice of the State of Para rejected that argument, saying that “wanting, after more than three decades, to get out of the amnesty law to reopen the discussion about crimes committed during the dictatorship is a mistake which not only has no legal support, but also does not take into account the historical circumstances which, in a great effort of national reconciliation, led to this amnesty”. It thus rejected the charges brought against Rodrigues de Moura.
The case was eventually reopened when, on 31 August 2012, a federal judge of Para accepted the prosecution’s argument according to which the 1979 Amnesty law does not cover permanent crimes such as enforced disappearances.