DECISION ELDORADO DOS CARAJÁS: STJ Upholds the Conviction of Military Police

The Superior Court of Justice (STJ) denied the appeal of the police officers convicted of killing 19 landless workers in 1996 in Eldorado dos Carajás (PA). The defense requested a mistrial, in 2002, but the ministers of the Court, unanimously, considered the legal formulation of the questions (questions about the crime) presented to the jury. With this, the court maintained the sentences imposed on Colonel Mario Colares Pantoja, 228 years, and Major José Maria Pereira de Oliveira, 158 years and four months. The judge who presided over the grand jury prepared the inquiries to be submitted to the jury in a single series. The defense wanted the court to acknowledge the need to formulate a series of inquiries for each of the 19 victims. For this purpose, the defense relied on an Article of the Code of Criminal Procedure which states that when there are several points in an indictment, the inquiry to the jury will be made in a separate series of questions. The rapporteur of the action, Justice Laurita Vaz, did not detect insignificance in the questions formulated by the judge. Before presenting them to the jury, the judge presents the questions to the defense and the prosecution. In this case, the minister highlighted that there was, by the defense, no appeal to the items at the time of presentation by the judge. The defense also did not appear in the minutes of the trial making their oral arguments invalid. Moreover, the Justice Laurita Vaz said that the prosecution's argument is unique, homogeneous, since the conduct of the commanders was unique (losing command of the troops and thereby contributing to the crimes). The rapporteur noted that the defense thesis was also unique, this being the case; it did not represent damage to the defense’s performance. The landless workers were killed during an operation of clearing of highway PA-150, the route to the city of Marabá (PA), that had been blocked by protesters for three days. The landless workers were protesting the delay in the expropriation of land for agrarian reform. Colonel Pantoja was the commander of the 4th Military Police Battalion of Marabá and major Oliveira was the commander of the Military Police Company of Parauapebas (PA). The convicted men are seeking in freedom pursuant to a writ of habeas corpus granted by the Supreme Court (STF). Press Release from the Movimento Dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra, August 26, 2009.