International Association of People's Lawyers

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  Dissent Special Issue - Defending Lawyers

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Call For Action In Support of Atty. Ermogenes Jacinto de Souza

A Request For An Urgen Action In Defense of Brazilian People's Lawyer Atty. Ermogenes Jacinto de Souza

August 12, 2014

Ermogenes Jacinto de Souza
Dr. Ermogenes Jacinto de Souza is a well-known People’s Advocate and a member of Brazilian Association of People's Lawyers. He has spent his professional life defending the poor peasants who have struggled for their legitimate right to have lands in the State of Rondônia, in Brazilian Amazon. This area of Brazil has witnessed significant number of murders planned, ordered and executed by Landlord or their mercenaries. No one forgets the murder of Renato Nathan a teacher and Élcio Machado, Gilson Gonçalves peasants and dozens of others. The Landlords commit these atrocities and criminal acts due to lack of rule of law and accountability in the State of Rondônia. Murder, with total impunity is the fact of life in Rondônia. The State authorities have failed to act. The Judiciary including prosecutors and police have been busy dancing to the Landlord’s tunes. They are institutionally corrupt and server and assist the landlord to continue their land grabbing strategies.

Dr. Ermogenes have been threatened and severely restricted in performing his duties as a lawyer. The landlords’ armed mercenaries have constantly threatened him. The Judiciary, civil servants and member of the police forces in the State of Rondônia have repeatedly denied his legal request such as access to his clients, disclosure of evidence and police reports and legal files and papers. They have literally obstructed him from exercising his duties as a lawyer. He has been prevented from representing more 20 poor peasants who have been detained for brining legal actions against the landlords in the region of Rondônia.

Dr. Ermogenes has become extremely vulnerable over the past three months. He has established certain facts regarding the state corruption and the police collusion with the landlords. He found out that specific members of the Military Police Edelvan Moura da Silva (nicknamed Zeca Urubu), Andrade Kenio Fonseca (nicknamed Fonseca) and Fernando Alencar Larios, had been doing private work for the landowner Nadir Jordan dos Reis. It was revealed these officers were involved in the confiscations and land possession against the poor peasants. He was informed that these three officers were recently convicted of torture (Proc. N. 0003343-69.2011.8.22.0021, district of Buritis-RO). In spite of this they are still active member of the military police. Dr. Ermogenes received a death threat from Edelvan . He was literally warned that he could be eliminated at any time, unless he ceased his activities against Mr. Reis or any of the other landowners in the region of the city of Ariquemes.

Dr. Ermogenes has brought actions and made official complaints to the 'National Agrarian Ombudsman' chaired by Gercino José da Silva Filho, and at the same time in the Special Secretariat for Human Rights of the Presidency, chaired by Minister Ideli Salvati. The atrocities such as unlawful arrest, torture, against the peasants, repeated shooting incidents and police actions against those peasants who complained to the Police were clearly raised and addressed in the 'National Commission for Combating Violence in the Field' during the meeting on July 22, 2014, in Porto Velho, with the presence of the Chief of Agrarian Civil Police, Lucena Vinicius Tavares Bastos, and the Attorney Raphael Bevilacqua.

On another recent occasion, Dr. Ermogenes was unjustly admonished by Judge Alex Balmant, from the 1st Criminal Court in the case involved 14 peasants unjustly convicted for conspiracy. This judge repeated insinuations brought by the police that Dr. Ermogenes allegedly urged the poor peasants to occupy land. This is a clear violation of professional prerogatives according the Statute of Advocacy. Dr. Ermogenes has also noted that the police have started a new campaign of persecution, undermining his professional reputation by spreading wild and baseless allegations against him whenever he represents peasants who took actions against forced evictions of their lands and wrongful arrests of their comrades peasants.

Since 2000, when Dr Ermogenes began his professional work in that region, he has been subjected to restriction, obstructions, in his professional work. He has been receiving constant death threats from the landowners and their gunmen. In his report, he outlined the details of his persecution orchestrated by landowners Nadir Jordan dos Reis, Jorge Chaparini, Dilson Caldato, José de Oliveira Heringer, Cataneo and Antonio Martins dos Santos (nicknamed Galo Velho, business owner of Leme Ventures Ltda, company that was mentioned in the Report of Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry on Public Lands in the Amazon region).

Ermogenes stated that Mr. Chaparini already insulted and threatened him with death. At another point, some armed gunmen who work for Mr. Chaparin had tried to kidnap him in Porto Velho Court office. To avoid being kidnapped by the gang, Dr. Ermogenes managed to escape unharmed when he climbed the Court office wall. He reported that he has faced many difficulties in the Porto Velho Court office because the landlord José de Oliveira Heringer, who is also a lawyer, has an office in the same court. In 2008, Mr. Heringer invited Dr. Ermogenes to his office to deal with a case where both were involved. When Dr Ermogenes reached the office, he noticed that another landlord, Dílson Caldato, (Mr. Heringer’s client) was waiting for him with some of his armed men.

Dr. Ermogenes clearly states in his report that he cannot work in free and safe environment in Porto Velho and Buriti Court offices (two cities in the state of Rondônia). He cannot work in his office due to the fact that Heringer’s employers informed the landlord of his presence in the office whenever he attends his office. In addition to this, he further stated that he has been under surveillance by The Federal Police and his phones been tapped without judicial authorization.

Dr. Ermogenes has been recently investigated for a false allegation of racketeering by Helio Vieira a landlord and former President of the' Lawyers Association of Rondônia'. This charge was later filed without any further action. He further stated that the Chief of Civil Police of Porto Velho, Antonio Garção Sobral, who is also a landowner and Helio Vieira’s neighbour of Helio Vieira, has been involved in fabricating this false accusations.

It is clear and evident that Dr. Ermogenes’ life is on stake. Urgent national and international actions are required to stand and defend the right of those who defends the defend less and poor oppressed people. We hereby urge the international organisations to raise their support for Dr. Ermogenes and his fellow lawyers in Brazil who stood for their personal and professional integrity which is the cornerstone of the society.

In endorsing this statement, the following organizations, democrats and advocates for the rights of the people affirm their concern about the situation of Ermogenes Jacinto de Souza and require immediate action by local, state and federal authorities to protect his life and the legitimate exercise of his professional activity!

.Brazilian Association of People's Lawyers/ABRAPO

.International Association of People's Lawyers/IAPL

.Brazilian Center of Solidarity with the Peoples/CEBRASPO

.Torture Never More Group/Rio de Janeiro

.Mexican Association of People’s Lawyers/AMAP

.Lenir Correia Coelho, Legal Assistant of the Pastoral of Land Commission (CPT)/Rondônia and Lawyer of the National Network of Popular Lawyers (RENAP)

.Marilsa Miranda de Souza - Professor of Education Departament of Federal University of Rondônia (UNIR)

.Márcio Marinho Martins - Professor of Federal Institute of Education, Science and Technology of Rondônia (IFRO)