Communication No. 1683 (BRAZIL)

Communication No. 1683, dated July 9, 1970, concerning the arbitrary arrest, torture and murder of the union leader Olabo Hansen, allegedly committed by the Brazilian Political and Labor Police (DOPS) in the city of São Paulo between May 1 and May 9, 1970.

The Commission, in a note dated June 17, 1970, requested the corresponding information from the Government of Brazil in accordance with Articles 42 and 44 of its Regulations.

This communication has been under study since the Twenty-fourth Session (October 1970) at which time the Commission decided to appoint Dr. Durward V. Sandifer as rapporteur for the case (and for other communications referring to the situation regarding human rights in Brazil); Dr. Sandifer was requested to present a report on each case, with the observations he may deem appropriate. The Commission further decided to request the consent of the Government of Brazil for the rapporteur to go to that country, accompanied by the Executive Secretary of the Commission, in order to gather the information necessary for the performance of its functions. This request was made on October 26, 1970 and repeated on December 10, 1970.

The Government of Brazil responded to the request for information in a note dated January 11, 1971 (AAA/1/602.60(20), enclosing documentation as an integral part of its reply.

In reference to case No. 1683, the information provided by the Government of Brazil may be summarized as follows:

  1. That Mr. Hansen, an engineering student, 25 years of age, had been arrested by the Military Police of the State of São Paulo when he distributed subversive pamphlets at the "Villa Maria Zélia" athletic field during an assembly of workers, this having led to the so-called "Operation Bandeirantes" of that city;
  2. That on the next day he was taken to the station of the Political and Labor Police (DOPS), where he felt ill and was transferred to the Army Hospital, where he died;
  3. That an autopsy was performed on the cadaver at the Institute of Legal Medicine, which issued a medical-forensic opinion that the cause of death was unknown;
  4. That a police investigation had been initiated on this matter, and had led to the conclusion that Mr. Hansen had committed suicide by taking "Parathion," a substance used in the manufacture of insecticides and the like; and that accordingly, it was decided to file the investigation in the custody of the Political and Labor Police authorities.

In the same note the Government of Brazil also stated the reasons for which it refused its consent for the rapporteur of case No. 1683 and others concerning Brazil to visit that country.

At its Twenty-fifth Session (March 1971), the Commission continued its study of communication No. 1683 together with the information supplied by the Government.

At that session the rapporteur, in compliance with the mandate received from the Commission, prepared a report with his conclusions and recommendations (Doc. 7-25 reserved), which was the subject of extensive discussion and study, and of observations by Dr. Carlos A. Dunshee de Abranches. As a result of these discussions, the rapporteur presented a second report on case No. 1683 at the same session (Doc. 37-25 reserved), which contains an analysis of aspects of the supposed suicide of Mr. Hansen, as well as conclusions on certain points of fact to which no reference is made in the pertinent part of the information received from the Government of Brazil (hematomas and encephalic lesions on the cadaver of the alleged suicide).

Finally, at this session the Commission approved the recommendations of the rapporteur on case No. 1683, sending notes to the complainants on April 6 and 7, 1971, transmitting to them the pertinent parts at the Government's reply and requesting that they provide the Commission with all information at their disposal to assist in resolution of the matter.

The complainants, in a communication dated August 20, 1971 (No. 9031), supplied the following additional information on the case of Mr. Hansen, with particular reference to the reply of the Government of Brazil:

  1. That the Government of Brazil, in its reply to the request from the Commission for information regarding case No. 1683, "does not answer the specific points of the complaint but merely sends the Commission its own version of the events, insistently emphasizing that Olavo Hansen was at the same time one more agent and victim of the most abominable and inhuman system of ideas that the human mind has yet devised, and thereby passively admitting the political and union-related nature and motives of his arrest and his death";
  2. That the Government of Brazil reproduces the findings of the police investigation and the dossier kept by a judge advocate of the army, which means that the entire process remained within miliary jurisdiction; and that this jurisdiction, according to the complainant, is not the most suitable one to hear the case since it is both judge and an interested party. The proper procedure would have been for the regular system of justice to take up the matter;
  3. That the opinion of Dr. De Mello, the attorney appointed by the Attorney General of São Paulo to take part in the investigation, according to the Government of Brazil, does not appear within the documents submitted by that Government to the Commission. The claimant adds that with one exception, all of the testimony is from police or security agents";
  4. That the forensic experts saw evidence of violence on the cadaver of Mr. Hansen, regarding which the Government file says nothing, except that the lesions observed on the cadaver were insufficient to cause death;
  5. That the imprisonment, physical violence and death of Mr. Hansen should be regarded as a political and union-related crime, and that the complainant does not accept the finding of suicide and much less agree that the investigation be filed; and
  6. That the Commission continue its study of the case going to Brazil if need be to verify the truth of the act on the spot.

At the Twenty-sixth Session (October-November 1971), the rapporteur presented a third report on the case (Doc. 14-26, reserved), in which he stated that the new information supplied by the complainants required further study of the case, and recommended that a decision be postponed until the Twenty-seventh Session, at which time he would present a further report.

Dr. Carlos A. Dunshee de Abranches commented on the recommendation of the rapporteur, stating that the Commission should reach a decision at the present session, since in his opinion, all elements were at hand, namely: the information supplied by the Government concerned and the additional observations and information provided by the complainants.

The Commission decided by a majority vote to approve the recommendation of the rapporteur and accordingly to postpone its decision on case No. 1683 until its Twenty-seventh Session, after the rapporteur had presented his report. Dr. Dunshee de Abranches submitted a separate opinion.

The Commission informed the Government of Brazil of this decision in a note dated November 17, 1971; in a communication of December 3, 1971 it also informed the complainants.

Communication No. 1684, dated June 25, 1970 denouncing several acts in violation of human rights alleged to have taken place in Brazil in 1969 and 1970, and chargeable to various branches of the armed forces and of the security and police forces of that country. The denunciations refer in particular to the right to life, liberty, and personal security and integrity; the right to protection against arbitrary arrest; and the right to due process of law, as set forth in Articles I, XXV and XXVI of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.

In a note dated September 19, 1970, the Commission requested the corresponding information from the Government of Brazil, transmitting to it the pertinent parts of the complaint in accordance with Articles 42 and 44 of its Regulations.

This case had been studied earlier by the Commission at its Twenty-fourth Session (October 1970), at which time the following decisions were taken: to repeat to the Government of Brazil the request for information on the acts denounced; to appoint Dr. Durward V. Sandifer as rapporteur of the case (together with other cases pertaining to the situation of human rights in the same country); and to request the Government of Brazil, as provided in Article 11.c) of the Statute and Article 50 of the Regulations of the Commission, to give its consent so that the rapporteur might visit Brazil to obtain the information necessary for the performance of his functions. Communications to this effect were sent to the Government on October 26 and December 10, 1970.

The Government of Brazil, in a note dated January 11, 1971, replied to the Commission and supplied information and a number of documents related to the charges made in this and other denunciations that had been transmitted to the Government with requests for information. With respect to case No. 1684, the Government, in summary, stated that the charges were false inasmuch as the competent Brazilian authorities had repeatedly declared their rejection and condemnation of any violation of human rights in Brazil. As for the consent requested in the communications of October 26 and December 10, 1970, so that the rapporteur might obtain, in loco, information for the performance of his functions, the Government of Brazil expressed "its great surprise at this request," inasmuch as no indication had been given of the reason for this decision, nor had it been made clear why, before the close of the period within which information was to be supplied, the Commission suddenly, without waiting for expiration of the statutory periods, wished to send a representative to Brazilian territory. Furthermore, the sending of an observer to Brazil had to be considered as an exceptional measure "that only should be applied when the Commission has no other means to verify the acts."

The Chairman of the Commission in a note dated January 26, 1971, thanked the Government of Brazil for sending the information and documentation on the acts denounced, stating further that he regretted that the Government of Brazil had refused its consent for the rapporteur of the case to visit that country. He also stated the following:

  1. That the Commission, in accordance with its Statute and Regulations and with established practice, requests consent to visit an American state solely on the basis of the gravity and urgency of the acts, as these have been stated in the denunciation, and
  2. that this meant to prejudgement whatever on the part of the Commission.

The Commission continued its study of the case at its Twenty-fifth Session (March 1971), during which the rapporteur, Dr. Durward V. Sandifer, presented a report with conclusions and recommendations that were studied together with the information from the Government of Brazil and the observations of Dr. Carlos A. Dunshee de Abranches. On the basis of the rapporteur's recommendations, the Commission agreed to request that the Government of Brazil supply it with all information available regarding the allegations of torture of the persons mentioned in the case, and to transmit to the complainants the pertinent parts of the reply from the Government of Brazil.

The Commission so informed the Government of Brazil on March 12, 1971, and the complainants on April 8, 1971.

The note of March 12, 1971 was repeated on the following June 14.

The Government of Brazil, in a note dated August 27, 1971 (No. 7), replied to the Commission requesting under Article 51, chapter 2 of the Regulations, a six-month extension of the 180-day period prescribed in chapter 1 of that Article to supply the information requested by the Commission, stating that the complexity of the case made this request necessary.

At the Twenty-sixth Session (October-November 1971), the rapporteur presented a "Second Report on Case 1684," recommending that, as provided in Article 51, chapter 2 of the Regulations, the Government of Brazil be granted the extension requested.

Dr. Carlos A. Dunshee de Abranches made certain observations regarding the manner in which the Commission had been conducting its study of case No. 1684. These observations were a reiteration of previous views expressed at the Twenty-fifth Session: i) separation within file No. 1684 of the various cases that make up this dossier, inasmuch as they refer to different persons and took place in different places and on different dates; ii) verification in each case of the exhaustion of internal remedies as prescribed in Article 54 of the Regulations of the Commission; and iii) granting of the extension requested by the Government of Brazil but only for a three-month period, since the Government already had been given sufficient time from the date on which the request for further information had been made (March 12, 1971). Dr. Dunshee de Abranches presented a separate opinion in this connection.

The Commission approved the recommendations of the rapporteur, with the modification proposed by Dr. Dunshee de Abranches and decided to grant the Government of Brazil the extension requested only to December 28, 1971, so that the rapporteur of case No. 1684 might have the time necessary to prepare his report and submit it to the Commission for consideration at its Twenty-seventh Session.

In accordance with this decision, the Commission sent a note to the Government of Brazil on November 17, 1971.