More than 140 jurists, researchers and politicians sign an open letter in which they request the immediate removal of the substitute judge Mário de Paula Franco Júnior from the Samarco Case.
The letter is based on the revelations made by the Mining Observatory in March 2021 that motivated the judge’s request for suspicion formalized by five institutions – Public Prosecutor’s Office, Public Prosecutor’s Office of Minas Gerais, Public Defender’s Office, Public Defender’s Office of Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo – in the end of the last month.
“The seriousness of the facts revealed to the Brazilian society about the procedural conduct in this case requires that the conduct be investigated seriously, with the immediate appointment of a judge or a substitute judge, in view of the pressing danger of irreparable damage to these already tired victims”, says the letter, which was also signed by institutions including social movements, NGOs, research centers and legal organizations.
The videos of the meetings published by the Mining Observatory, say the lawyers, show the judge of first instance “guiding lawyers and segments of the affected communities in how to act in the case, in order to adopt the indemnity model suggested by the companies (Vale and BHP). This procedure is different from those provided for in the judicial agreements that took years of negotiation, as well as clearly violating art. 145 of the Code of Civil Procedure”.
Signed the letter, among others, Carlos Frederico Marés de Souza Filho, respected jurist and former president of the National Indian Foundation (Funai), Fernando Haddad, former Minister of Education and professor at University of São Paulo (USP), Eugênio Aragão, former Minister of Justice, Jacques Alfonsin, retired attorney recognized for the defense of human rights, Gilberto Bercovici, professor at the USP Law School, dozens of popular lawyers and dozens of researchers from federal universities from north to south of Brazil.
“Since the beginning of the process, in 2015, the seriousness of the lack of impartiality by the judge of the case has been gradually verified”, affirms the letter, which goes on to say that “it is worth remembering that in the Justice System there should be no heroes and vigilantes, but civil servants subject to the Brazilian legal system, and not above it”.
The request for removal of the judge made by the 5 mentioned institutions must, initially, be answered by the federal judge himself, who must recognize or not his suspicion in the case.
And Mário de Paula Franco Júnior, in his defense signed on April 25, did not recognize his bias and sent the case to the Federal Regional Court of the 1st Region, which will remain in principle in the hands of the appellate judge Daniele Maranhão, who has already decided in favor of Mário de Paula on other occasions.
In his 333-page defense, Mário de Paula directly attacks the Public Prosecutors and Defenders Offices who have made the suspicion request, attacks the press several times, including the published materials by The Mining Observatory and attacks the affected people who do not agree with the new compensation system proposed by the judge and by mining companies Vale and BHP.
Lawyers who came out in defense of the judge have already pocketed R$ 100 million
Mário de Paula, who refused three times to give an interview to clarify the content of the videos and answer necessary questions about his actions in the case, in his defense, invoked, among others, support from the lawyers themselves who joined the new system after meetings guided by him. The judge limited himself to saying, via the TRF1 Press Office, that “due to legal impediments, the Federal Court does not comment on ongoing cases”.
As Judge Mário de Paula determined that lawyers should receive 10% of each lawsuit in the new system, these same lawyers who supported the judge actions have already pocketed approximately R$ 100 million in fees of R$ 1 billion that the Renova Foundation paid so far.
“The Brazilian justice system needs to have the trust of its citizens as a fundamental element of democracy. We cannot go on admitting serious irregularities, which violate constitutional guarantees, in the name of a momentary resolution”, says the letter.
Also came out in defense of Mário de Paula the prosecutor of the Espírito Santo Prosecutor’s Office Monica Bermudes, who is the niece of Sérgio Bermudes, a lawyer who works for Vale and the owner of one of the largest law firms in Brazil. As a result, Mônica Bermudes could not act in actions against Vale for conflict of interest and should argue “legal hindrance” from participating in the Samarco Case.
In the text asking for the immediate removal of Judge Mário de Paula, the more than 140 jurists and institutions affirm that, more than 5 years after the rupture of the Mariana dam, in November 2015, owned by Vale and BHP, the reparation has not progressed, no resettlement has been built and those involved have not been held criminally responsible.
The Renova Foundation claims that it disbursed R$ 12.8 billion in total in “reparation and compensation actions”. 11,800 people have already received through the simplified compensation system. Regarding resettlements, the infrastructure works in Bento Rodrigues are not yet ready, after several postponement of deadlines. Only 7 houses were built and 72 are under construction. In Paracatu de Baixo, only 6 houses are under construction, none has been built.
Facing the facts, the signatories affirm, “We, Brazilian jurists and the organizations subscribed below, demand that the complaint of partiality be fully investigated and the due process in the reparation of people affected by the disruption of the Fundão dam must be guaranteed”.
Read the full letter (in portuguese).