In Brazilian Courts Little Has Changed Since US Nun’s Murder

Social movements and human rights groups suffered yet another defeat this month at the hands of the local and federal government authorities regarding the murder case of Sister Dorothy Stang.

Two hired gunmen shot and killed Stang on February 12, 2005. Stang, an American religious sister, had been working with the poor and environmental concerns, often conflicting with large landowners and loggers in the area.


Several times she went to local authorities to denounce death threats against her and the leaders of the communities with whom she worked.


The justice system in the state in which she was murdered, Pará, is notoriously slow and corrupt when it comes to bringing the rich and powerful to justice.


This is the same state in which only two out of over hundred police officers were convicted for the 1996 Massacre of Eldorado dos Carajás in which 19 rural workers were killed and many others wounded.


The trial of the two officers was only completed last year. Less notorious trials of the rich and powerful get held up for years and rarely end up in convictions. Because of this, human rights lawyers pushed for the case to be moved to a federal arena.


On June 8, the request was denied. The federal judges said that in this case, the state authorities acted in an efficient and timely manner, arresting the suspects in record time.


The human rights lawyers state that this was only because of the international attention that the case received and the fact that their was a motion for the case to be heard before federal judges.


Now, various entities are going to analyze other cases which have been held up for years, and bring them to authorities to make them federal cases.


Meanwhile, repression continues against landless workers in Pará.


At the beginning of this month, the governor of the state, Simão Jatene, ordered the expulsion of 20,000 landless workers off land located in the southern part of the state.


A police force of 280 burned houses, destroyed crops, beat several workers, and made death threats. They did not even give the families time to gather their belongings nor food that they had just harvested.


SEJUP – Brazilian Service of Justice and Peace – www.sejup.org

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