Shocking: Aluízio Palmar being sued by his torturer in Brazil

January 21, 2020

A scene in São Paulo, Brazil, on April 1, 1964, during the military coup against President João Goulart that installed a dictatorship. (Photo via Public Archive of São Paulo State)

A scene in São Paulo, Brazil, on April 1, 1964, during the military coup against President João Goulart that installed a dictatorship. (Photo via Public Archive of São Paulo State)

Jacob Blanc a history professor at the University of Edinburgh – published in Nacia of 20 January 2020 a real ‘horror story’ about Aluízio Palmar, a Brazillian human rights defender and tortutre victim being sued by a dictatorship-era torturer. He puts the blame squarely on the climate created by Bolsonaro.

The physical and psychological torture happened 40 years ago, when Palmar was imprisoned by the military dictatorship that ruled Brazil from 1964 to 1985. But it was only last month, in a climate defined by Brazil’s right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro, that Palmar’s abuser felt emboldened to file the suit….In a cruel twist, it is not a case of the victim seeking justice from his abuser. Instead, Ostrovski—who became a lawyer after his military service—has sued Palmar for defamation of character and “moral damages” over his efforts to bring public attention to Ostrovski’s crimes.

Ostrovski’s human rights abuses have been well-documented, including in the 1984 report on torture titled Brasil: Nunca Mais (Brazil: Never Again) and also in the 2014 National Truth Commission, the largest effort to-date to elucidate the repression of Brazil’s military regime. In these reports, multiple victims testified to Ostrovski’s acts of torture. Despite this evidence, Ostrovski has never stood trial. Nor, for that matter, has anyone in Brazil been held accountable for the cruelty of dictatorship. Unlike in neighboring Chile and Argentina where limited trials did take place, not a single member of the Brazilian military has faced criminal charges.

The lack of legal justice for Brazil’s human rights abusers helps explain the lawsuit against Palmar. Since the 1980s, Palmar has been an ardent human rights activist and journalist. He has co-founded a political newspaper, written a book on the forced disappearances of six Brazilian dissidents, maintained a website that publishes declassified documents, and established the Center for Human Rights and Popular Memory in the city of Foz do Iguaçu. So although there has been a concerted absence of political and institutional justice, Palmar and countless Brazilians like him have fought to keep the memory of the past alive. One of these initiatives took place in 2013 and stands as the crux of the current lawsuit.

As part of the investigations for the National Truth Commission, Palmar and three other torture victims testified in a public hearing. In the aftermath of this testimony, protestors engaged in a political action common in Latin America known as an escrache: to expose Ostrovisky—who had been living in relatively anonymity—the crowd marched to his law office and held a noisy rally to “out” him as a torturer. Palmar himself did not take part in the protest, but he did publicize the event on Facebook. And it is precisely Palmar’s act of sharing the protest on Facebook that Ostroviski is now citing in his claim for legal and financial restitution. But if the event in question took place in 2013, why is the lawsuit only now being brought forth?…The answer ties directly to Brazil’s current political landscape. Since Bolsonaro’s election in October 2018, a long-standing culture of impunity has become even more brazen. An army captain in the final years of the dictatorship, Bolsonaro has built his political career on an unapologetic nostalgia for military rule. Among his many headline-grabbing statements, Bolsonaro invoked the dictatorship’s most notorious torturer in voting to impeach the former president Dilma Rousseff—herself a torture victim—and he has stated that the regime’s murder of some 500 citizens did not go far enough.

“Since 1979, torturers have been protected by a law that is interpreted as impunity for them,” Luciana Silva, a professor of history at the State University of Western Paraná, said. “Now they are sheltered by an irresponsible president, who clearly governs for only a portion of the population. The torturer felt comfortable suing his victim as if nothing were going to happen.”

As both a journalist and a human rights defender, Palmar embodies two of the sectors of civil society most under threat in Bolsonaro’s Brazil. Between early December and early January alone, multiple journalists and media outlets in Brazil have suffered abuse, including two reporters in Rondônia receiving suspended jail time in a defamation case and a radio station’s antennae being destroyed by arson. Bolsonaro himself recently renewed his antagonism against the press: When asked in December about the growing corruption scandal surrounding his family, he deflected by verbally assaulted the journalist: “You look terribly like a homosexual.” These threats contribute to a dangerous reality where since 2010, 22 journalists in Brazil have been killed.

And according to the NGO Frontline Defenders, Brazil is also one of the deadliest places on earth for human rights activists, with a frightening increase in the threats, arrests, and physical attacks on activists, particularly around environmental, Indigenous, and LGBTQI+ rights. In 2019, the number of Indigenous leaders and activists killed reached the highest rate in two decades, and the Bolsonaro regime continues to skirt any responsibility to solve the 2018 assassination of Marielle Franco, a city councilwoman, gay Black feminist, and human rights activist. Bolsonaro also lashed out against the media when evidence emerged of apparent links between his family and Franco’s suspected killers.  [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/13/marielle-franco-one-year-after-her-killing-in-rio/]

Palmar’s situation is symptomatic of how human rights are being inverted in Brazil.  “With Bolsonaro in power, [these abusers] feel free,” Palmar said. “They feel free to go around threatening us, to commit a form of terrorism. And more and more they’re putting Brazilian democracy itself in danger. There is a real enemy, and it’s going to set us back a long time.

https://nacla.org/news/2020/01/20/inversion-human-rights-brazil

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