Supreme Court rejects change in Brazil's amnesty law to try alleged human-rights abusers

BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) — The Supreme Court has rejected a motion to modify the country's Amnesty Law so that officials accused of human-rights abuses under Brazil's military regime would have to stand trial.

The Brazilian Bar Association had submitted the proposal, arguing that torturers were excluded from the 1979 Amnesty Law pardoning both civilians and military personnel for alleged crimes committed under the 1964-1985 dictatorship.

The court voted the motion down by a vote of 7-2 on Thursday. Most justices said that the law should remain as it is because it had been approved by society as a whole, including the bar association, armed forces and political exiles.

Unlike Argentina, Uruguay and Chile, Brazil never prosecuted members of the armed forces for human rights abuses committed during the country's military rule.

Tim Cahill, Amnesty International's Brazil researcher, said Friday in an e-mailed statement that the Supreme Court's ruling was an "affront to the memory of the thousands who were killed, tortured and raped by the state that was supposed to protect them."

"In a country that sees thousands of extra-judicial killings every year at the hands of security officials and where many more are tortured in police stations and prisons, this ruling clearly signals that in Brazil nobody is held responsible when the state kills and tortures its own citizens," he added.

A Defense Ministry spokesman said the department had no comment. No one answered the telephone at the presidential palace's press offices.