By Sovereign Hager
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will announce a proposal for a truth commission on Monday, aimed at answering questions about abuses that occurred during Brazil’s twenty year military dictatorship. Victims’ relatives have pointed out that the commission will only be effective if military archives are opened.
Victims’ relatives have also expressed concern that the draft version of the proposal called the new body a Truth and Reconciliation Commission rather than a Truth and Justice Commission. The draft proposal has to be approves by the Brazilian Congress. A member of the Torture never Again group expressed her concerns at a press conference saying “how can any of the families or anyone from civil society pardon or agree to reconciliation?”
Earlier this year Brazil granted amnesty and reparations to dozens of peasants who were “disappeared” in any army crackdown on a rebel movement in the Amazon. A justice ministry commission also toured Brazil this year and asked victims and their families for forgiveness and provided some compensation.
To date there have been no convictions in Brazil for participating in dictatorship-era murders and torture and has refused to make public the military archives from the period. The families of dictatorship-era victims argue that the opening of military files are key to “the showing of the truth and those responsible.”
The military and its leftists opponents both received amnesty by law in 1979. The Supreme Court is now considering a case that argues that torture is not covered by that law. Victims groups argue that the truth commission must have the power to investigate crimes, including the hiding or destroying archives. These investigations will aid in recommending criminal cases against suspects, and to send documents to courts. Brazil’s armed forces are opposed to further investigations or revisions of the amnesty law.
During the dictatorship, as many as 20,000 people were believed to have been tortured, often through the use of electric shocks and chemicals. Over four hundred Brazilians were murdered or disappeared. Victims groups have filed cases against Brazil with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, questioning the army’s role in the search for victims’ bodies in the Amazon and arguing that the Amnesty law impedes investigations of the dictatorship period.
In response to military accusations that victims’ families are seeking revenge, representatives said “we’re not looking for retaliation. What we want is justice. Brazil is the slowest country in Latin America on these issues.”
For more information, please see:
New Tang Dynasty Television-New Brazilian Human Rights Plan to Include Truth Commission-19 December 2009
Reuters-Brazil Torture Victims Want Army to Open Records-16 December 2009
New York Times-Brazil’s Lula to Propose Torture Truth Commission-14 December 2009