Share & Connect
Brazil has recently announced the creation of its National Truth Commission to investigate the human rights abuse committed by the military dictatorship that existed from 1946 to 1988. During this dictatorship almost five hundred people were killed or disappeared and several thousand were arrested, exiled, or tortured. Since then the government has compensated citizens for missing family members, but many claim this is not enough.
Current President Dilma Rousseff created the Commission after passing a law this year. The Truth Commission will investigate for two years; a panel of seven people were sworn in by President Rousseff on 16 May 2012. The members of the Truth Commission include Jose Carlos Dias (former justice minister of Brazil), Gilson Dipp (Supreme Court judge), Rosa Maria Cardoso da Cunha (lawyer), Claudio Fonteles (former attorney general), Paulo Sergio Pinheiro (UN diplomat), Maria Rita Kehl (psychoanalyst), and Jose Cavalcante Filho (jurist).
Rousseff herself was arrested during the military dictatorship as a left-wing guerilla. She was tortured and jailed for three years.
International rights groups such as Amnesty International and the International Center for Transitional Justice have praised the creation of the Truth Commission. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay has called the creation of the Truth Commission “a necessary and very hopeful step.”
Rousseff herself stated that “Brazil deserves the truth, new generations deserve the truth, and – above all – those who lost friends and relatives and who continue to suffer as if they were dying again each day deserve the truth.” Although Rousseff passed the law that created the Truth Commission she emphasized that it is not an initiative of the government but of the state of the whole, including past administrations and the people of Brazil. At the swearing in ceremony for the Truth Commission Rousseff was accompanied by the four previous presidents of Brazil since democracy was re-established in 1985.
However several people have criticized the creation of the Truth Commission as an attempt to get revenge. Many retired military officers are upset about the allegations that may arise and have announced that they are planning to create a “shadow commission” that will counter any accusations.
An amnesty law passed in 1979 and upheld in a Supreme Court decision in 2010 guarantees that any military officials or left-wing guerillas would not be prosecuted for crimes. This is disappointing for many of the relatives of victims who wish to see justice served. Many international rights groups, although encouraged by the creation of this commission, wish to see Brazil repeal this law so that arrests and prosecutions would occur.
Many also worry that, although the Truth Commission will be investigating these crimes, they may not fully publicize the information or may be denied access to some files. However, a new Access to Information Law ensures that the human rights abuse information cannot be classified, which means that state archives will be open for the first time.