A Brazilian Supreme Court justice has suspended the trial by jury of a farmer/landowner, José Délcio Barroso Nunes, who is accused of ordering the death of a union leader/activist, José Dutra da Costa, aka Dezinho, in November 2000.
The ruling, by justice Celso de Mello, also suspends the landowner’s incarceration and a penal process against him in Rondon do Pará, in the Brazilian northern state of Pará, until such time as a final decision is reached on a habeas corpus request in the case.
Defense lawyers claim their client was denied due process (cerceamento de defesa) in a hearing on habeas corpus on April 23 at a lower court (STJ).
Dezinho was an activist who denounced farmer/landowners in the Rondon do Pará region for keeping workers in slave-labor situations and hiring gunmen. He was shot by Wellington Silva, a hired gunman whose confession led the police to Barroso Nunes. Even so, Barroso Nunes has spent the last ten years since the murder in liberty awaiting trial.
This is yet another land conflict case, similar to many others, for example, that of the American missionary nun, Dorothy Stang, who was also murdered on orders of landowners. Her death also occurred in the state of Pará, where it is not easy to put a farmer/landowner behind bars.
In October 2008, the Dezinho case was brought before the Inter-American Human Rights Commission, housed in the Organization of American States, which ruled that it seemed Brazilian authorities were dragging their feet and not trying to resolve the murder.
The Brazilian constitution has over 300 articles, so it is not surprising it goes into a lot of detail. For example, it has articles on divorce, the rights of families (especially youth), poverty and even corrupt judges. The Senate has just approved a series of constitutional amendments.
Divorce in Brazil can now be obtained without judicial separation of a year or physical separation of two years, which were mandatory in the past.
Another amendment, known as the “youth amendment,” deals with economic, social and cultural rights of young people, altering the part of the constitution that deals with the interests of the family, children, adolescents and senior citizens.
The new text says that it is the duty of the family, society and the State to ensure, as an absolute priority, that children, adolescents and youths have a right to life, health, food, education, leisure, professional training, culture, dignity, respect, liberty and family and community living.
The text adds that those groups should be safe from all forms of negligence, discrimination, exploitation, violence, cruelty and oppression.
Another constitutional amendment extends, for an indeterminate period, the Eradication of Poverty Fund, which was due to expire this year.
Another amendment approved will eliminate retirement benefits for corrupt judges. In the 1988 constitution, the maximum punishment a judge could receive was a suspension or expulsion followed by something called “retirement in the public interest.” That meant full benefits after being removed from the judiciary.
All these amendments were approved in a first vote. At least one other vote in the Chamber of Deputies will be necessary before they become part of the constitution.