July 27, 2011: Unprecedented ruling guarantees justice for the case of the assassination of a member of the Movimento Sem Terra (MST)

Publish Date: 
Thursday, May 10, 2012

On July 27, by a vote of 4 to 3, the Special Júri Tribunal condemned Jair Firmino Borracha, of the 1999 murder of Eduardo Anghinoni, one of the main leaders of MST in the Brazilian state of Paraná. A landmark ruling, this was the first time that a gunman accused of joining a rural militia has been held responsible for murder by a jury tribunal in that country.

Family members and friends of the victim were heartened by the outcome, although they noted that the intellectual architects of this crime had still not been identified. The judge of the session, Dr. Daniel Ribeiro Surdi Avelar, noted that this trial had suffered excessive delays and that earlier legal proceedings might have served to save the lives of others who have been killed due to their activism in defense of the right to land for landless people in Brazil. Between 1995 and 2002, 16 landless farmworkers were assassinated in Paraná, 49 death threats have been documented and 325 people wounded in 134 evictions. This situation has resulted in two prior convictions by the Interamerican Court of Human Rights of the Organization of American States, whereby Brazil was condemned due to cases involving the persecution and murder of rural workers in the northeast region.


The assassination of Eduardo Anghinoni in 1999 involved the efforts of armed militias sponsored by planters and local politicians to evict, threaten, torture and assassinate rural landless workers. Eduardo Anghinoni was killed while visiting his brother Celso, one of the principal leaders of the Landless Workers' Movement (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra - MST) in Paraná. In criminal investigative proceedings it was found that the murder had been ordered, that the assassin's main target was the leader of the MST, and that Eduardo had been shot instead by mistake. A ballistics test confirmed that the bullet that killed Eduardo came from the gun of Jair Firmino Borracha. Corrupt devices employed in the handling of the investigation meant that the trial was delayed for 12 years.

While Jair Firmino Borracha was convicted of murder, the person who contracted the crime will remain unpunished, since police did not gather sufficient evidence during the investigations to point to who ordered Celso Anghinoni's death.

The death of Eduardo Anghinoni is not an isolated incident. Occurring during the height of persecution against the MST in Paraná, this assassination is yet another piece in a complex mosaic of lawlessness and violence encouraged by systemic impunity; which has been further bolstered by a longstanding alliance of large landholders with local politicians in associations like the Rural Democratic Union (União Democrática Ruralista - UDR).

For the social movements and civil society organizations that accompanied the trial, this ruling will help to avoid the commission of new crimes in the countryside and heighten the possibility that conflicts related to lands and the environment may be resolved by the State through efforts to strengthen public policies that guarantee human rights, such as the right to land, the right to food and, primarily, the right to life.

For more information about this case visit the website of ESCR-Net member Terra de Direitos: http://terradedireitos.org.br/biblioteca/juri-anghinoni-decisao-inedita-garante-justica-no-caso-de-assassinato-de-sem-terra/