At the OAS, organisations denounce 15 years since the disappearance of the Crimes of May victims

In a petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, organisations called for state accountability regarding the disappearances following the 2006 massacre

Dona Débora, leader of the Mothers of May Movement, in an interview with Conectas
on the Crimes of May. (Photo: João Paulo Brito/Conectas) Dona Débora, leader of the Mothers of May Movement, in an interview with Conectas on the Crimes of May. (Photo: João Paulo Brito/Conectas)

On Wednesday (12), civil society organisations will be sending a petition to the IACHR (Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organisation of American States) calling for the Brazilian government to be required to respond on the disappearances during the Crimes of May, which happened 15 years ago, this week.

Two decades on, public authorities have failed to clarify the hundreds of executions carried out by death squads in the periphery of São Paulo, from 12 to 21 May 2006. The episode, known as Crimes of May, left more than 500 dead, the majority young, black men.

“The Brazilian state has not even acknowledged the disappearances in the context of the massacre committed in May 2006. This historical crime must be named and an urgent response must be demanded regarding this grave episode of institutional violence that led to 500 families becoming victims and that remains unpunished and has not been investigated. The absence of an institutional response reinforces state racism and disdain regarding the black lives that were victims of this massacre.” Said Gabriel Sampaio, Coordinator of the Institutional Violence Programme at Conectas.

“The forced disappearances verified at the time, have fallen into obscurity and have received no response from the state, even 15 years later. For this reason, the São Paulo Public Defender´s Office, Conectas and the Mothers of May Movement, presented a new denouncement to the IACHR, calling for the Brazilian state to assume responsibility for the disappearances that occurred in the same period, also because this is a grave violation of human rights which even today is seen with unacceptable frequency in Brazil.” Said the Public Defender, Letícia Avelar, Assistant Coordinator of the Centre for Citizenship and Human Rights of the Public Defender´s Office.

The organisations request that the IACHR acknowledge the international responsibility of the Brazilian state for violation of the American Convention on Human Rights and the Inter-American Convention on Forced Disappearance of Persons, and that it recommend that Brazil should investigate the agents involved in the human rights violations committed during these episodes and hold them responsible.

The document also stresses the importance of the state providing psychological assistance to the victims´ families and, among other measures, says it should hold training courses for judges and prosecutors on forced disappearance.

If the Brazilian government does not meet the Commission´s recommendations, the organisations request that the case be passed to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Unresolved crimes

Investigations into the more than 500 deaths in 2006 were never concluded. In 2009, Conectas requested the State Attorney to take one of the cases to the federal level, one of the most emblematic cases of the Crimes of May: the Parque Bristol Massacre. Transfer to the federal level would allow investigations to be re-opened and carried out by experts working independently from Federal Prosecutors and the Federal Police.

It was only in May 2016, ten years after the murders, that the Attorney General at the time, Rodrigo Janot, took up the request and presented it to the Superior Court of Justice. The case has still not gone to trial.

This is the third time that civil society has turned to the OAS regarding the Crimes of May. In 2009, Conectas and victims´ families denounced the case to the IACHR alleging violation by the Brazilian state of the American Convention on Human Rights, ratified by the country in 1992. The Public Defender´s Office, also called on the Commission in 2015, calling for acknowledgement of the violations committed by the Brazilian state against the victims identified, thus determining full reparation of consequences suffered.

In 2018, the Public Defender´s Office and the Public Prosecutor´s Office levied a public civil action against the state of São Paulo, also with the aim of gaining recognition for the Crimes of May as grave human rights violations and securing payment of compensation of individual and collective moral damages. Following decisions at trial and appeals courts, where the lawsuits were defined, they were sent to the Superior Courts (STJ and STF) and have still not been analysed

Short animated film covering the 15 years since the Crimes of May. Watch here:

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