Tarso Genro just resigned as Brazil’s minister of Justice to run for governor of Rio Grande do Sul, the southernmost Brazilian state. Talking to reporters on his last day as minister, Genro denied that he had left president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva a problem called Cesare Battisti.
“I am not leaving president Lula a problem. I have made a report. The president is completely aware of my position. Nobody loses, this is a win-win for all. It strengthens democracy,” said Tarso, explaining that the Battisti case expanded the debate in the country and caused people to discuss the issues involved.
“One result was the return of the presidential prerogative to make the final decision,” he claimed.
Last November the Brazilian Supreme Court decided that the president had the final word on the extradition of Battisti, an Italian guerrilla, to Italy.
However, in one of the opinions on the case justice Eros Grau found a loophole which could make it possible for the case to return to the court if Lula decides to allow Battisti to remain in Brazil. This is because by doing so Brazil would be breaking an extradition treaty with Italy that dates from 1989.
Battisti was tried and sentenced to life in prison for four murders in Italy in the 1970s when he was a member of an extremist left-wing group (two of the people he killed were low-level government employees – a customs official and a policeman).
Battisti escaped from prison in the 1980s and lived in France for many years before going to Brazil in 2004. In 2007 he was arrested in Brazil (for using false documents) and Italy immediately requested his extradition.
In January 2009, the minister of Justice, Tarso Genro, extended Battisti refugee status after the Brazilian Refugee Commission had denied it.
The case reached the Supreme Court in November 2009 where not one, not two, but three decisions were made. All three decisions were by 5 to 4 votes. There are eleven justices on the Brazilian Supreme Court but two of them did not participate.
First, the court ruled that Battisti should not have been given refugee status basically because his crimes were not considered political. Second, the court ruled that he should be extradited to Italy. Third, the court ruled that the final decision was the president’s, basically because international relations are involved.