In the last day of his mandate, president Lula decided against the extradition of Cesare Battisti, an Italian leftist militant accused of murdering at least four people in Italy in the late 70′s. Lula’s decision was based on his belief that Battisti is politically persecuted and had an unfair trial in Italy. Lula’s act caused animosity in the Italian society. The story of Cesare Battisti is long and filled with polemics and diplomatic friction. Until recently France and Italy were at odds because of Battisti too. But that doesn’t remove the responsability of Brazil’s decision. Did president Lula make the right decision? Is Battisti guilty or innocent? Does that matter?
I think this was another blatant diplomatic goof commited by the Brazilian government. Lula’s decision bears an enormous ideological bias: just like Battisti, Lula was in prison for being a leftist militant. That’s what guided his decision, which instead should have been made assuming that one can’t really know the truth about what Battisti did or did not do – and judging that is up to Italy and no one else. If Italy’s justice system is failed, corrupted and sold out to the mafia, and if because of that Battisti had an unffair trial, that’s NOT Brazil’s business. That said, one would think Brazil has an exemplar judicial system. But that’s not the case. Brazilian justice is so failed itself that it’s not too much different than Italian justice, and it only has itself to blame for this whole imbroglio. The Brazilian Supreme Court took a long time to decide that Battisti should actually be extradited. But along with that ultimate definitive ruling came a mind-boggling reservation: Brazil’s law says that the real actual ultimate definitive irreversible irrevocable decision about an extradition is up to the President. That’s when Lula entered the story.
Things Lula should have considered:
If Battisti is innocent of the murder accusation and gets extradited: we would have one innocent man spending life in jail for crimes he didn’t commit. Even if innocent from the murder accusations, Battisti would still be a fugitive from prison, since in 1979 he was arrested and sentenced to 12 years in prison for the crime of participating in an armed group, but escaped from prison a few years later, seeking refuge in France. Anyway, in this case, Brazil would have sent Battisti back to serve the 12 years of jail he was initially sentenced to. Fair enough. But Brazil also would have to live with the fact that it sent a man innocent of murder to spend life in jail (a sentence without a doubt longer and harder than the 12 years Battisti initially got for being a leftist activist).
If Battisti is innocent of murder and doesn’t get extradited: again, even if one owned the absolute truth and *knew* Battisti was innocent of murder, he would still be a fugitive from prison, since in 1979 he was arrested and sentenced to 12 years in prison for the crime of participating in an armed group, but escaped to France. Diplomatic backlash and commercial jeopardy of Italy-Brazil relations is a certainty.
If Battisti is guilty of murder and gets extradited: we would have one convicted man properly behind bars. The family of the victims and the victims would have justice done. Italy-Brazil diplomacy and business would be safe. Brazil would give a step further in showing that it is not the crime abetting nation of the world. Happy ending for all.
If Battisti is guilty of murder and does not get extradited: Brazil would have to live with the fact that it gave freedom to a man who commited multiple homicide, for the despair and frustration of the victims’ families. It would reinforce its reputation for impunity and crime praisal. Diplomatic backlash and commercial jeopardy of Italy-Brazil relations is a certainty.
Considering the above, and that I do agree that Battisti had an unffair murder trial and should be given the right to a new one, here is how I would (try to) do it: I would extradite him, but under an agreement. I would extradite Battisti, but not because of the murder crime. I would extradite him because he is a fugitive of his first sentence, the 12 years for being part of an armed group. But that only under the condition that the Italian government would cancel the first murder trial and call for a new one, according to the european parliament human rights chamber. I doubt Italy would refuse that. Between not having Battisti, and having him arrested at least for the 12 years he firstly got, you think they’d go for nothing? And that way Brazil would be taking its finger out of their cake while still being fair. But I think our overrated leaders are far from having the wisdom of making choices not biased by ideological views.
Lula himself, President Dilma Rousseff and some people in their staff have been arrested and tortured during the Brazilian military regime because they were considered left wing guerrilla. They were later freed as the military came down, but the military who actually killed people were given amnesty. Last year Lula released the latest reform in Brazil’s National Plan for Human Rights, that, amongst other things, determines that the efforts to investigate the crimes commited during the military dictatorship will extend to investigating crimes of *both* sides, that is, crimes commited by the military, and by the left wing activists. The backlash against that clause was huge and people were calling Lula a traitor for making an agreement that possibly punished his own kind and still wouldn’t change what happened to the military. Judging by what he did with Battisti, apparently Lula only cares about protecting the left wing activists of other countries. Brazil’s can go to hell.