The organizers of the International Tribunal for Democracy hope to shine a light on the critical political movement in Brazil
Social movements in Brazil on Tuesday, July 19, 2016, launched a symbolic International Tribunal for Democracy in Rio de Janeiro to put the ouster of suspended Dilma Rousseff, widely condemned as a parliamentary coup, on trial for its impact on the democratic order in the South American country.
Organized by Brazil’s Popular Front and Brazilian Jurists for Democracy together with the world’s largest social movement, La Via Campesina International, the Tribunal will mimic all the phases of a real trial and be overseen by experts from the Mexico, Argentina, France, Italy, Spain, the United States, and other countries.
“We live in a moment that must be debated,” president of the Tribunal, Juarez Tavares, explained to the Workers Party news agency. “Not in the name of the family, but through arguments and truth.”
The Tribunal, held at the Teatro Oi Casa Grande in Rio de Janeiro, begins by hearing witness testimonies and arguments from the mock prosecution and defense on Tuesday. Then, on Wednesday, each member of the international jury will have half an hour to present their vote before judges announce the final decision, expected at 1:00 p.m. local time.
The organization Project South — whose legal and advocacy director, U.S.-based human rights lawyer Azadeh Shahshahani, is a member of the mock jury — described the Tribunal as an effort “to make transparent to the world the debate on this process of impeachment” against Rousseff, adding that it marks “a new type of coup.”
Other participants in the Tribunal include Mexican Bishop Raul Veras, Costa Rican law professor Walter Antillón Montealegre, and Italian member of the Permanent Tribunal of Popoli and rights advocate Giovanni Tognoni, among others.
The prosecution is led by professor and researcher of criminal law at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Geraldo Prado, while the defense is represented by Doctor of Law from the University of Gama Filho, Margarida Lacombe.
Brazil’s International Tribunal for Democracy is modeled off the Russell Tribunal, also known as the International War Crimes Tribunal, that symbolically put U.S. foreign policy and military intervention in Vietnam on trial in the 1960’s during the Vietnam War.
The Tribunal in Brazil comes just weeks ahead of an expected vote in the Senate on whether to permanently remove Rousseff from office, installing “interim” President Michel Temer until the next election in 2018, even though he is banned from running for public office for the next eight years.
Rousseff’s rivals long attempted to paint the impeachment process as a bid against government corruption. But rampant and massive fraud in the ranks of the opposition, paired with wiretap evidence that high-level figures plotted to block corruption investigations with her ouster, has revealed that the true motives behind the plan to remove her from office had more to do with protecting corruption than prosecuting it and grabbing power that conservatives couldn’t win at the ballot box.
A recent report by the Public Prosecutor’s office also found that Rousseff is not guilty of any crime. Unlike many of her opponents, including Temer, she has not been accused of any personal enrichment.