Brazil’s military to cooperate in dirty war investigation

April 3, 2014

Vincent Bevins – The Los Angeles Times, 4/2/2014

Brazil’s military has agreed to open investigations of use  torture at bases it operated during two decades of dictatorship from 1964 to 1985.

The announcement Tuesday, the 50th anniversary of the coup that toppled a democratically elected government, marked the first time the country’s armed forces have pledged to cooperate in examining human rights crimes for which no one has ever been tried. An amnesty law was passed by the military government in 1979.

The military government is accused of killing and “disappearing” more than 450 people and torturing and exiling thousands. The military on Tuesday finally accepted a request from the country’s Truth Commission, a public, non-military organ investigating abuses in the period, five decades after the day President Joao Goulart was deposed.,0,290916.story#ixzz2xrVtVKuu

Breaking the silence in Brazil

July 2, 2013

Emma Sokoloff-Rubin – Foreign Affairs, 07/01/2013

In 1983, almost 30 years before Brazil inaugurated a truth commission to investigate the crimes of a brutal military dictatorship, seven college students put their lives on stage. The dictatorship was on the verge of collapse, but military rule was all this group had ever known.

Júlio Conte and his friends were studying theater in Porto Alegre, a city in southern Brazil. They had learned to be careful about what they said aloud. In their lifetime, nearly 500 Brazilians had been killed and 20,000 tortured by the government. Conte was tired of waiting for democracy. “Being censored makes you fight to speak,” his friend Flávio Bicca Rocha said in a recent interview.

The students captured the uncertainty and hope in Brazil at that moment by telling their own stories in a play, Bailei na Curva. The title, which means “I danced in the curve,” is slang for someone who has gotten hurt or lost his way. One of Bailei’s main characters, whose father is abducted by the military police, meets the same fate later in the play. Other characters try to make sense of their parents’ collaboration with the military, and all of them struggle with the gap between what they hear on the radio and the reality they see.

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Brazil’s Truth Commission to investigate the role of the church during dictatorship

November 7, 2012

Associated Press/The Washington Post, 11/07/2012

The Truth Commission investigating human rights abuses committed by Brazil’s former dictatorship will also look into the role Catholic and evangelical churches played during the 1964-1985 military government.

Established last year by President Dilma Rousseff, the commission will investigate whether pro-dictatorship clergy committed human rights abuses or supported members of the military responsible for such abuses.

Rousseff herself is a former leftist guerrilla who was imprisoned for more than three years and tortured during the dictatorship. She signed the law establishing the commission, which was given two years to conclude its investigation into the torture, murder and forced disappearances of people opposed to the dictatorship.

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Brazil grapples with repressive past

April 26, 2012

César Chelala – Epoch Times, 04/26/2012

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff signed into a law a Truth Commission to investigate crimes by a former military regime. She is pictured outside Alvorada Palace in Brasilia on April 19. (Evaristo Sa/AFP/Getty Images)

The creation in Brazil of a Truth Commission to investigate crimes committed from 1946 to 1988 opens the possibility of learning what happened to hundreds of forcibly “disappeared” persons during the country’s recent past.

The findings of the commission, which are to be released two years from now, will allow their families not only to know the fate of their loved ones but also to bring closure to their lives.

Even though the commission’s mandate is to investigate crimes committed by military regimes during their rule from 1964 to 1985, it also includes an investigation of the crimes perpetrated before and after the military dictatorship. It is estimated that between 1964 and 1985, 475 people were forcibly disappeared, 50,000 imprisoned, and 20,000 tortured.

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Brazil finally ready to confront abuses in past dictatorship

January 6, 2012

Vincent Bevins – LA Times, 01/05/2012

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, shown at the presidential palace in Brasilia last year, was part of a leftist guerrilla group in the 1960s and '70s that opposed the military dictatorship. (Fernando Bizerra Jr. / European Pressphoto Agency / December 16, 2011)

Vera Paiva has spent four decades trying to find out what happened to her father after he was arrested in 1971 during Brazil’s military dictatorship.

Rubens Paiva, a former congressman, is one of the country’s most famous desaparecidos, or “disappeared ones,” whose cases finally will be investigated by the government.

“The last time we heard of anyone seeing him, he was inside the jail and had been barbarically tortured,” Vera Paiva said, sitting in her house in Sao Paulo and going through details she has told journalists and officials hundreds of times.

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An uneasy search for truth as ghosts from military rule start to stir

December 27, 2011

Simon Romero – NY Times, 12/20/2011

Victória Grabois in Rio de Janeiro. Her husband, brother and father were killed by the military. Douglas Engle for The New York Times

After years of wrangling with the nation’s military hierarchy, the authorities here have created a truth commission to examine the abuses of Brazil’s long dictatorship, a move hailed as a sign that Brazil could be ready for a more active role against rights abuses, not just at home but globally as well.

But in the weeks since President Dilma Rousseff signed the laws creating the commission and a separate freedom of information measure, Brazil has begun to face the possibility that in the realm of human rights — unlike on regional economic and diplomatic matters — the mantle of leadership may not come so easily, after all. Skeptics on both sides are asking, Is the nation prepared to fully grapple with the crimes of its past?

Ghosts from the period of military rule, from 1964 to 1985, have begun to stir, revealing how Brazil, despite emerging as Latin America’s rising power and the world’s fourth-largest democracy, still trails its neighbors in prosecuting officials for crimes that include murder, disappearance and torture.

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Brazil shatters its wall of silence

December 5, 2011

Eduardo Gonzalez – New York Times, 12/02/2011

Brazil’s recent decision to examine the abuses of the military dictatorship from several decades ago could change the face of democracy at home, making it more genuine and transparent. At the same time it could have a wider impact, allowing Brazil to take a decisive stand on human rights regionally and internationally.

In a momentous step forward, President Dilma Rousseff has signed two laws: one on access to government information, and another establishing a national truth commission, modeled after similar experiences in Latin America.

Authorizing inquiries on government abuse breaks with a long-standing tradition of government secrecy and elite opacity. Even today, Brazil refuses to declassify archives related to 19th century foreign wars and internal repression. After the end of slavery in the 1890s, Brazil incinerated all governmental archives on the practice; whether to hinder compensation claims by slave owners or to hide a shaming period in history, it is impossible to know with certainty.

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Brazil Truth Commission established to investigate rights abuses

November 21, 2011

Marco Sibaja – AP/Huffington Post, 11/18/2011

The bills are under the umbrella of the 1979 Amnesty Bill which protects torturers and guerrillas from prosecution. Mercopress

BRASILIA, Brazil — Brazil’s president signed a law on Friday establishing a truth commission to investigate human rights abuses by the military regime that ruled Latin America’s biggest country from 1964 to 1985.

President Dilma Rousseff will appoint the seven members of the commission, which will have two years to complete a report.

The board will have subpoena power, can demand any document it wants from the government and can put witnesses under oath. But its recommendations won’t result in any prosecutions as long as the country’s 1979 amnesty law remains intact.

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*On March 22, 2011, the Brazil Institute held a discussion on the progress that had been made in creating a Truth Commission. Click here to watch or read a summary of the event.

Human rights in Brazil: It isn’t even past

November 18, 2011

The Economist – from the print edition, 11/19/2011

DILMA ROUSSEFF was tortured; Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was jailed; Fernando Henrique Cardoso was forced into exile. Brazil’s president and her two most recent predecessors all suffered under the country’s 1964-85 military regime. Yet only now is the country planning a closer look at the crimes committed in those years. By November 23rd Ms Rousseff is expected to sign a law setting up a truth commission, passed by Congress in late October. Its seven members will have two years to examine murder, torture and “disappearances” perpetrated by both the government and the resistance between 1946 and 1988.

A law on freedom of information will strengthen this shift towards openness. First proposed in 2003, it was given a shove in September, when Ms Rousseff agreed to lead an international “open government initiative” with Barack Obama. Brazil’s constitution is strong on the right to information. But it had no legislation to flesh out the details, making winkling out facts a matter of persistence and luck. Documents can remain secret indefinitely.

In October Congress passed laws to make the constitution’s promise a reality. Soon the secrecy of sensitive documents will be limited to 25 years, renewable once. Those to do with human-rights abuses will have to be released immediately, and most material will have to be handed over within 30 days of a request, barring a valid reason for continued secrecy.

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