Capital punishment in Brazil

Capital punishment in Brazil

Capital punishment in Brazil was last used in 1861 and has not been officially used since the proclamation of the Republic in 1889. Brazil is traditionally the second country in the Americas to abolish the death penalty as a form of punishment, preceded by Costa Rica in 1859.


The last execution determined by the civic justice in Brazil was of the black slave Francisco, in Pilar das Alagoas in April 28, 1876, and the last execution of a free man was, probably (there are no official records), of Antônio José das Virgens, in Brejo de Areia, Paraíba, in the year of 1861. Until the last years of the Brazilian empire, the jury continued to condemn defendants to death, besides the fact that since 1876 emperor D. Pedro II commuted all the death sentences, for free men and for slaves. However, the death sentence was only fully abolished for common crimes after the proclamation of the Republic in 1889. The death penalty was not abolished for certain military offenses in times of war.

The Constitution of 1937 (used in Getúlio Vargas' "Estado Novo") admitted the possibility of the use of the death penalty for other crimes beyond military offenses in times of war. In 1942 writer Gerardo Mello Mourão was accused of espionage and was condemned to death. Nevertheless, there is no record of any execution happening in this period of time.

From 1969 to 1978 the execution once again became available as a form of punishment for the "political crimes" after the decree of the "Ato Institucional nº 5" ("Institutional Act nº 5") during the period of the military dictatorship (1964-1985). Some opponents of the regime were even convicted to death, but there is no record that an official execution occurred (some of these opponents were killed even before they had an opportunity to a legal trial).

Capital punishment was finally abolished for all non-military offenses in 1988 and current Constitution. Currently, the death penalty can be used for military-related crimes during times of war. However, Brazil has not participated in any major conflict since WWII. Brazil is the only Portuguese-speaking country that still maintains the death penalty for some offenses.


The "Brazilian Federal Constitution" of 1988 expressly prohibits the use of the death penalty by the penal justice system (Article 5, Paragraph 47). However, the death penalty may be applicable, according to international law, in case of a declared war, under the terms of Article 84, paragraph 19, of the Constitution.

Brazil is a party of the Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights to Abolish the Death Penalty, which was ratified on August 13, 1996.

According to international law, the "application of the death penalty in time of war pursuant to a conviction for a most serious crime of a military nature committed during wartime" is admissible. Article 2, paragraph 1 of the United Nations Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Aiming at the Abolition of the Death Penalty, allows parties to make a reservation in these terms, at the time of ratification or accession to the Protocol.

The Brazilian Constitutional Law says that a convict cannot stay more than 30 years in jail, so, if a convict gets a 48 year sentence, he will leave at the latest on the 30th year of the sentence, and may be eligible to be freed by a Habeas Corpus.

External links

* [ "Capital punishment in Brazil"] by the Brazilian embassy in London, United Kingdom.
* [ "Capital punishment in Brazil"] by the Portuguese version of Wikipedia.

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.