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In Pursuit of Justice: FNI's Landmark Memorial in the Massacre of Acari Case

Updated: Feb 29

Following the establishment of its Inter-American Human Rights Observatory, the Facts and Norms Institute (FNI) has successfully presented its first Amicus Curiae Memorial to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

FNI's Memorial is focused on the case of Leite de Souza and Others vs. Brazil—also known as the Massacre of Acari. Prepared by Professor Roberta Cerqueira Reis and Sofia Viegas Duarte, the Memorial aims to provide the Court with comprehensive insights into the complexities of human rights violations and the impact of state violence in Brazil.

The Massacre of Acari

On July 26, 1990, eleven people, mostly teenagers, were kidnapped and disappeared after being approached by individuals who identified themselves as police officers. The petitioners affirm that they were massacred by agentes of the State.

Investigations pointed to the involvement of police officers in extortions prior to the disappearance of the youths, linking them to a notorious extermination group known as "Cavalos Corredores".

The police investigation at the time was fruitless. With the State's inertia, the mothers of the disappeared joined together to try to find their children's bodies and obtain justice, forming the movement that became known as “Mothers of Acari”.

On January 15, 1993, a leader of the mothers' movement, Edméia da Silva, was murdered. Her death was denounced as retaliation for her actions in the pursuit of justice.

The process dealing with the homicide of Edméia has been dragging on since 1998. Regarding the young disappeared from Acari, the judicial process has not even started.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights highlighted socioeconomic and racial aspects in the Case Leite de Souza vs. Brazil, pointing out the stigmatization of young, poor Afro-descendants as delinquents.

State violence as a structural problem

FNI's Memorial presents a comprehensive argument regarding the systemic violence perpetrated by state agents in Brazil, particularly focusing on police violence, the limits of transitional justice, and the dehumanization of poor and Afro-descendant populations.

Extrajudicial executions, forced disappearances, and other human rights violations are common in socially vulnerable communities, often justified as acts of self-defense or obscured through manipulated official records.

The narrative that the killing and enforced disappearance of "criminals" is justifiable permeates society and legitimizes violent police actions, hampering serious investigations. This narrative is supported by the widespread belief that such violence is beneficial for the protection of "workers" from "criminals."

The criminal justice system rarely investigates police excesses, leading to a cycle of impunity that encourages the operation of extermination groups and militias, predominantly composed of civil and military police.

There is a historical continuum of state violence from the 1964-1985 military dictatorship to current democratic times, with past abuses still unaccountable before criminal couts.


The Memorial calls for the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to consider the structural causes of state violence in Brazil and to mandate the adoption of structural measures to prevent future violence.

These measures include conducting a diagnostic of extermination groups and militias, strengthening investigative capacities, and combating the stigmatization of young, poor, and Afro-descendant individuals.

The Court should also require Brazil to implement policies such as mandatory inquests for all deaths caused by police, educational programs to prevent dehumanization practices and racist policies, and inclusion of human rights standards as criteria for public officials' promotion.

To read the full memorial, click here:

Memorial Amicus Curiae à Corte IDH. Caso Leite de Souza e outros. BR
Download PDF • 1.96MB


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