Inter-American Court condemns Brazilian state for the death of rural worker Antônio Tavares in 2000

Other 185 MST members were injured during the attack carried out by Paraná state Military Police

Translated by: Ana Paula Rocha

Brasil de Fato | Rio de Janeiro |
Monument honoring Antônio Tavares in Campo Largo, in Paraná state, was mentioned in the sentence - Welinton Lenon

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights condemned the Brazilian state for the killing of rural worker Antônio Tavares and for the injuries caused to another 185 people who were part of the Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) caravan violently repressed by the Military Police of Paraná state in May 2000. The sentence was published on Thursday (14).

The court ordered compensation payment worth US$ 800,000 (about BRL 4 million) to Tavares' widow and his five children. In addition, it ordered the payment of compensation ranging from 15 to 20 minimum wages (in Brazil, it’s about US$ 264) to all the other people injured in the attack, as well as the provision of free medical, psychological and psychiatric treatment to those attacked.

The ruling also ordered that a public act be held to acknowledge the Brazilian state's responsibility in the case and that content about the violent episode be included in the training activities of Paraná's security forces, as well as the adoption of measures to protect the monument in honor of Antônio Tavares located in the town of Campo Largo.

The orders were formally forwarded to Brazil’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. However, the ruling is addressed to the Brazilian state as a whole, which includes the federal government, states and municipalities. Different bodies, in all these spheres, will have to comply with parts of the ruling, which will be closely monitored by the Court.

Violent repression

The peasant's killing happened during the Agrarian Reform March, organized in Curitiba (Paraná’s capital city) to celebrate the International Workers' Day of Struggle. A group of more than 1,500 MST members were repressed by the police when a troop of officers blocked the BR-277 highway and used firearms to prevent a motorcade of 50 buses from arriving in Curitiba.

Antônio Tavares, 38, was married and had five kids. He was shot dead by a Military Police officer after getting off a bus with other passengers. In that same violent event, other workers were injured and received no medical care.

The Court, linked to the Organization of American States (OAS), has been analyzing the case since February 2021. In June 2022, hearings were held in Costa Rica in the presence of Tavares' widow, Maria Sebastiana; Loreci Lisboa, a survivor of the attack; organizations representing the victims; and members of the governments of Brazil and Paraná state, representing the Brazilian state.

The organizations that filed the complaint highlight that the context at the time in Paraná state was one of intense violence targeting rural workers, with the criminalization of their struggle for the right to land, in addition to threats and murders, such as those of Diniz Bento da Silva (known as Teixeirinha), Sebastião Camargo and Sétimo Garibaldi. The country has already been sentenced by this same international court for Garibaldi's murder.

Trials in Brazil

A military police investigation launched days after the murder of Antônio Tavares was closed on the grounds that the officers acted in "strict compliance with their legal duty". The Paraná State Court of Justice closed the criminal proceedings in the case, claiming that the Military Court had already closed the case.

The petitions to the international court were filed after the possibilities of achieving justice through the local legal system had been zeroed. Since Brazil has voluntarily submitted to the Inter-American Court, the country must abide by the decisions taken and cannot appeal them.

Edited by: Thalita Pires