Tuesday, April 07, 2009

A Second Chance at Justice in the Dorothy Stang Murder

Last year, I was dismayed when a Brazilian court overturned the conviction of Vitalmiro Bastos de Moura, who was earlier convicted for ordering Stang's guilt.

Well, in the wake of the good news in Peru today, there's more great news out of Brazil:

A Brazilian court on Tuesday ordered the arrest and retrial of an Amazon rancher acquitted of orchestrating the murder of American nun and rain forest activist Dorothy Stang.
Para state's top court reversed last year's not-guilty verdict for Vitalmiro Moura on a technicality, ruling that a video used by the defense was not admissible as evidence, the state prosecutor said.

This is just outstanding. Over the past two decades, over 1,100 environmental activists and poor people have been murdered in Brazil's Northern and Northeastern regions over land disputes and conservation efforts, and for way too long, the elites behind these murders and the land-grabs that precede or follow them have remained immune. Moura's overturned conviction last year was definitely a low-point in the justice system in Brazil. But this new ruling changes everything - Moura can go back to the courts where he was originally found guilty (Brazil has no double-jeopardy laws), and hopefully witness the same justice that the poor men who were convicted and whom he hired to murder Stang. It's rare that justice gets a second chance, especially against Brazil's landed elites; hopefully, this ruling will help overturn that trend. I doubt it will, but even if it doesn't, at least there's a chance for Moura to end up back in jail, where he rightfully belongs.