Historic Court Ruling Empowers Brazil to Confront Its Dark Past


Five retired Brazilian military officers stand formally accused of torture and death of Deputy Rubens Paiva [en] in 1971, during the country's military regime. On May 26, 2014, in what is being seen as a historic ruling, a Federal Court of Justice admitted the case against the retired officers, thereby opening a chapter from Brazil's dark past.

In March this year, retired Colonel Paulo Malhães confessed [en] to the murder of Rubens Paiva as well as mutilating and hiding his body. He later retracted his testimony, saying that he feared for his life. A month later, Malhães was murdered [en] in a supposed armed robbery at his residence, a case that is still being investigated. New evidence discovered in his home, such as documents quoting the involvement of the aforementioned five military officers, were used by the public prosecutor's office to build a case against them.

Historical decision

The latest court decision belongs to a celebrated chapter in Brazil’s history, with the nation working towards making amends for years of silence on its dark period of dictatorship. Since the creation of the National Truth Commission in 2012, the country has been facing the untold memories of its past. A preliminary report found that there were 17 clandestine torture centers in the country at the time.

Rubens Paiva’s case is one of the most emblematic. As deputy for the Brazilian Labour Party [en] in Sao Paulo, Paiva was forced to relinquish his position after the military coup in 1964.

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