Brazilians protest military coup celebration

March 30, 2012

Juliana Barbassa – AP/Boston.com, 03/29/2012

Activists shout "murderer," at a retired military man, center, arriving at a military club in downtown Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday March 29, 2012. A club of retired military officers held its annual celebration of Brazil's 1964 military coup as usual, but faced protestors as members arrived for the event. Unlike its Latin American neighbors, Brazil never had a formal investigation into its 20-year dictatorship.
(AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano)

Riot police used pepper spray and tear gas Thursday to chase protesters away from a celebration by retired soldiers marking the 1964 coup that established Brazil’s long military dictatorship.

Former officers have gathered every year to mark the occasion, but now they’re facing a growing tide of opposition and had to push through about 200 people screaming “murderer” and holding up photos of those killed during the regime.

Unlike Argentina, Chile and Uruguay, which also had repressive military regimes, Brazil has never had a formal investigation into human rights abuses during its 1964-85 dictatorship. A 1979 amnesty law barred prosecutions for politically motivated crimes committed during the regime.

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Brazilian judge blocks request by prosecutors to file charges tied to dictatorship crimes

March 19, 2012

Bradley Brooks – AP/Boston.com, 03/16/2012

Colonel Sebastiao Curio Rodrigues de Moura. Credit: IstoE Magazine

A federal judge on Friday blocked prosecutors’ efforts to hold the first trial of a military man for abuses committed during the nation’s dictatorship.

Judge Joao Matos ruled that kidnapping charges filed earlier this week against retired army Col. Sebastiao de Moura would go against Brazil’s 1979 amnesty law. The amnesty bars prosecutions for politically motivated crimes that were committed during the 1964-85 military regime.

Prosecutors said in an emailed statement that they would appeal. Their decision to pursue the case was applauded this week by the United Nations and humans rights groups.

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UN praises Brazil’s decision to file first charges tied to crimes during military dictatorship

March 16, 2012

AP/Washington Post, 03/16/2012

The United Nations’ human rights office says Brazil’s decision to file criminal charges over the disappearances of five people is “a long-awaited development towards accountability” for its military dictatorship between 1964 and 1985.

A spokesman for the U.N.’s High Commissioner for Human Rights says the decision marks the first time Brazil has prosecuted human rights violations committed during that period.

Rupert Colville said Friday the U.N. welcomes the prosecution against Sebastiao de Moura, a retired army colonel involved in repressing the leftist Araguaia guerrilla movement, as “a first and crucial step in fighting the impunity” of Brazil’s military era.

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Brazil to bring first charges over dictatorship violence

March 14, 2012

Peter Murphy – Reuters, 03/14/2012

Brazilian prosecutors said on Tuesday they would file charges against a retired colonel over the disappearance of five guerrillas during the 1964-1985 military dictatorship, the first such case to be brought against any military officer from that era.

Rights group Human Rights Watch said the decision was a “landmark step for accountability in Brazil“.

The charges will be brought against Colonel Sebastiao Curio Rodrigues de Moura, who commanded troops that carried out the kidnapping and torture of five members of the Araguaia guerrilla movement in the Amazon that was fighting to impose communism, federal prosecutors said in a statement.

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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.


Brazil’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission: Small step in right direction

November 8, 2011

Alex Sanchez and Lauren Paverman – Council on Hemispheric Affairs/Eurasia Review, 11/08/2011

Brasilia has been making great strides toward securing a prosperous future, but one of its recent actions has centered on resolving a troubling aspect of the country’s past. On October 27, state officials announced a plan to establish a truth and reconciliation commission that will investigate crimes against humanity from 1946 to 1988, which encompasses the period during which the South American giant was run by a military junta. Like other post World War II Latin American nations, Brazil had previously been under military rule, and once President Dilma Rousseff signs the legislation into action, it will become the ninth country in the region to carry forth such a provision of self-scrutiny.

A number of human rights organizations have applauded the Brazilian government’s move. In a press release, the International Center for Transnational Justice, an international non-profit based in New York, commented that “[t]he Government of Brazil now has the opportunity to acknowledge a painful past and to implement an effective tool to establish the facts about past abuse, to help victims heal and to allow Brazilian society to understand a painful period of their history, therefore preventing recurrent violations.”

However, not everyone is satisfied with the establishment of the commission, claiming it does not go far enough in laying the groundwork to punish those responsible for forced disappearances and other human rights atrocities committed during the forty-two year period. Reportedly, nearly five hundred people were either killed or disappeared under Brazilian military rule, and they and their families deserve to see justice served. The seven members of the Brazilian truth commission will have a two-year window to investigate such alleged abuses, but no trials will occur, regardless of their findings. “It’s a timid commission, much less than those set up in Uruguay and Argentina,” Brazilian Senator Randolfe Rodrigues was quoted as saying by the Brazilian newspaper Folha.

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Brazil will look into its harsh political past but the military are safe

October 31, 2011

Mercopress, 10/29/2011

The Brazilian congress approved this week the creation of a Truth Committee that will look into human rights abuses from 1946 to 1988, which includes the military period from 1964 to 1985, but leaves untouched the controversial 1979 Amnesty Law that benefits military and police personnel.

The bill originally voted in the Lower House was supported in the Senate and now is waiting for the signature of President Dilma Rousseff, whom as a student leader in the early seventies suffered torture and abuse to the hands of the military dictatorship repressive organization.

The bill had been originally presented under the previous government of President Lula da Silva and Rousseff appealed to Congress to pass it in her first year of government.

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Brazil approves creation of Truth Commission

September 23, 2011

Americas Quarterly, 09/22/2011

Brazil’s House of Representatives approved on Wednesday the creation of a Truth Commission to investigate the human rights violations during the country’s military dictatorship (1964-1985). The bill to create the commission was first introduced during the presidency of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. President Dilma Rousseff—an ex-guerilla who was tortured and imprisoned during the 21-year dictatorship—is now urging the Senate to also approve the bill.

The Truth Commission will be comprised of seven members appointed by President Rousseff to examine instances of forced disappearance and other human rights abuses between 1946 and 1988. Regardless of the Commission’s conclusions, however, military personnel and guerillas found guilty of human rights abuses cannot be tried due to the Amnesty Law passed by the military junta itself in 1979. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights declared the 1979 Amnesty Law judicially null and void in 2010, but the Brazilian Supreme Court confirmed its legality the same year.

According to the Brazilian government, 400 people were killed or disappeared during the dictatorship, compared to over 30,000 in Argentina and 3,200 in Chile.

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Brazil Truth Commission aims to tackle dark past

September 14, 2011

Stuart Grudgings – Reuters, 09/14/2011

Brazil is close to creating a Truth Commission to investigate abuses committed during its 1964-1985 military dictatorship, ending a 26-year taboo on delving deeply into the period but falling short of calls for human rights abusers to face justice.

A bill to create the commission, loosely based on South Africa’s post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission, has won the backing of the still-influential armed forces and enough support in Congress for President Dilma Rousseff to sign off on it in coming weeks, government officials say.

Rousseff, a former leftist guerrilla who was tortured with beatings and electric shocks in the early 1970s, made creating the body one of her priorities for her first year in office that has so far been dogged by graft scandals and a lack of progress on reforms.

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*On March 22, 2011, the Brazil Institute held a discussion on Brazil’s progress in developing a congressionally-backed truth commission.  Watch the event or read a summary here.


Brazilian leader backs probe of dictatorship

September 7, 2011

Edmonton Journal, 09/07/2011

President Dilma Rousseff, herself a former guerrilla, has backed a probe into Brazil’s 20 year dictatorship, but critics argue it won’t be effective unless she first annuls a 1979 amnesty law.

Many of the Latin American giant’s neighbours – Argentina, Uruguay and Chile – have embarked on soul-searching journeys in recent years that have seen former dictators and high-profile military officers sent to prison for their roles in oppressive regimes of the 1970s and 1980s.

Analysts and relatives of victims, however, argue that without a dismissal of the amnesty law that could shield the worst offenders from Brazil’s 1964-1985 dictatorship, the fact-finding truth commission will be toothless.

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