Brazilian authorities said they were awaiting notification from Italy on arrest warrants for suspects in the coordinated repression campaign during South America's dictatorship era, but also anticipated that Brazilian citizens could not be extradited for trial abroad.
An Italian judge on Monday issued arrest warrants for 146 Latin Americans suspected of involvement in Operation Condor --a coordinated campaign by South American military rulers in the 1970s, early eighties to persecute leftists and dissidents. The warrants name Argentines, Bolivians, Brazilians, Chileans, Paraguayans, Uruguayans and Peruvians sought for complicity in the deaths of 25 Italian citizens. The list included 13 Brazilians. "We have received no information, be it from the Italian or Brazilian governments," a Federal Police spokeswoman in Brasilia said. "There is no such thing as extradition of Brazilian citizens for trial abroad. There can be a request from them to be arrested here, but that will depend on the analysis by the Brazilian justice system". Justice Minister Tarso Genro confirmed an extradition was unlikely. "We have a cooperation treaty on criminal justice with (Italy) but, in principle, Brazilian law doesn't permit extradition," Genro told reporters in Brasilia. The constitution permits extradition only in the case of common crimes and only of naturalized Brazilians, the minister said. Crimes committed by Brazilians abroad are subject to domestic law. The Supreme Court had the final word, Genro said. Brazil was under military rule from 1964 to 1985 but unlike the post-dictatorship governments of Chile and Argentina, has made little attempt to bring military men behind human rights abuses to justice. Families of torture victims and those who disappeared have expressed disappointment in the lack of action by President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a former union leader who was himself briefly imprisoned under military rule. Operation Condor was a secret operation among several South American military regimes to coordinate operations to abduct or kill their political opponents, including allowing death squads to cross borders to hunt them down. A joint information center was set up at the headquarters of Chile's notorious secret police in Santiago. Rights groups say the U.S. government knew of and supported the operation. O'Globo newspaper said this week that Brazil was not officially part of the secret operation but it allowed "freelance" military and police units to cooperate in certain missions with their counterparts from other countries. However it was not clear if the Italian judge's action against those on the list who are living in Latin American or elsewhere outside Italy was symbolic or whether the judge would try to have them extradited to Italy. The list includes such notorious characters as Argentina's military junta members, General Vidiella, Admiral Emilio Massera and deceased Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.