On 24 January 2009, lawyer Manoel Mattos was killed with two shots from a 12-caliber shotgun in the municipality of Pitimbu, Praia de Acaú on the south coast of Paraíba. According to witnesses, the lawyer was at home with family and friends when two hooded and armed men entered the house, took the lawyer out and shot him twice. Soon after they fled without taking anything.
Manoel Mattos was a human rights defender and at that time he was a member of the OAB-PE Human Rights Commission working mainly against death squads, who were operating with the collusion of military police officers on the border between Paraíba and Pernambuco, a region known as the Frontier of Fear, “Fronteira do Medo”.
Article 19 documentary on Manoel Mattos case
Between 2001 and 2007 Manoel’s work gained national and international recognition when he collaborated with Parliamentary Inquiry Committees denouncing the summary execution of almost 300 people over a period of 10 years in the states of Paraíba and Pernambuco. Manoel was also a councilor in the municipality of Itambé / PE for the Workers ‘Party (PT) and vice-president of the Workers’ Party (PT) of Pernambuco.
Among those tried for the killing were:Flávio Inácio Pereira, retired sergeant of the Military Police of Paraíba (intellectual author of the crime); Cláudio Roberto Borges (also an intellectual author of the crime), José Nílson Borges, brother of Cláudio and owner of the weapon used in the crime; José da Silva Martins and Sérgio Paulo da Silva (perpetrators of the murder). Flávio Inácio Pereira MP, named as one of the main people involved in the killing and José da Silva Martins ( who fired the fatal shots) were found guilty by the Sentencing Council.
Flávio Inácio Pereira and José da Silva Martins were sentenced respectively to 26 and 25 years of seclusion in a maximum security prison. Sérgio, Cláudio and José Nilson were acquitted of the crime.
It should also be pointed out that the case would normally have been heard in the State Court of Paraíba, but, at the request of organisations monitoring the case, the Attorney General’s Office (PGR) requested that the case be heard in a federal court, since it was a case of serious violation of human rights.
It is also important to mention that, prior to the killing of Manoel Mattos, on 23 November 2002, the Organisation of American States ordered Brazil to implement precautionary measures to protect Manoel Mattos. No such protection was provided.