By Paula Buzzi
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America
BRASILIA, Brazil — Brazil will soon join Argentina, Chile and Uruguay in the list of South American countries that are taking steps to investigate those responsible for the human rights abuses during their respective military regimes. A truth commission bill, which will examine the abuses between 1946 and 1988, was approved by Brazil’s Senate on Wednesday night and now awaits the signature of President Dilma Rousseff in order to become law.
The truth commission bill was drafted by former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of the Workers Party. Rejection and threats from three force commanders and the Minister of Defense, however, blocked any advancement of the bill during his term.
With strong support from current President Rousseff, the truth commission bill passed the lower house of the Brazilian legislature in September. President Rousseff, a former socialist during her youth, was captured and claimed to have been tortured in jail during the dictatorship. She urged congress to act swiftly on the bill as she believes it is key to Brazilian unity.
In addition to President Rousseff, several other leading figures in Brazil have stated that they were imprisoned and/or tortured during the military regime, including former Presidents Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Fernande Henrique Cardoso, and culture minister and singer Gilberto Gil.
The truth commission bill will consist of seven people appointed by the President to research reported abuses during the military dictatorship, and draw up a final report. Because of a military amnesty law, however, any military official or left-wing guerrilla accused of violence cannot be prosecuted. Despite no trials, Senator Aloysio Nunes believes the commission will help unveil many truths from the dictatorship era.
Approximately 500 Brazilians were captured or killed by the military during their rule between 1964 and 1985. Brazil has never punished those military officials responsible for the murders and human rights abuses.
Senator Randolfe Rodrigues believes this commission is a “timid” one compared to its’ neighboring countries. Other countries in South America, including Argentina and Uruguay, have already sentenced ex-military officials found guilty of human rights abuses during their military dictatorship. Brazil’s truth commission’s purpose, however, is to merely investigate.
For further information, please see:
Washington Post – Brazilian Senate Approve Investigation of Human Rights Abuses During Military Dictatorship – 27 October 2011
BBC News – Brazil Creates Truth Commission to Probe Rights Abuses – 27 October 2011
AFP – Brazil Approves Truth Commission on Rights Abuses – 27 October 2011
Merco Press – Truth Committee in Brazil but With No Review of Past Human Rights’ Crimes – 21 October 2011