Brazil probing dictatorship human rights abuses

AP/Fox News, 05/16/2012

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff on Wednesday swore in the seven members of a truth commission created to investigate human rights abuses committed during the nation’s long military dictatorship.

Rousseff, a former leftist guerrilla who spent three years in prison during the dictatorship and was brutally tortured, was moved to tears as she ushered in the long-delayed commission, whose work begins years after neighboring Latin American nations fully investigated the actions of dictatorial regimes.

“We are not moved by revenge, hate or a desire to rewrite history,” Rousseff said at the ceremony in Brasilia. “The need to know the full truth is what moves us. Brazil deserves the truth, future generations deserve the truth and most importantly those who lost their friends and their families deserve to know the truth.”

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Brazilian federal prosecutors investigate forced disappearances during military years

AP/Washington Post, 03/11/2012

A Brazilian newspaper is reporting that federal prosecutors are investigating cases of forced disappearances during the country’s 20-year military dictatorship.

In a report Sunday, prosecutors told the Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper that cases involving kidnappings and hiding of bodies may fall outside the amnesty law that released civilians and military from liability for political crimes.

They argue cases where the missing person is never found are “permanent crimes” falling outside the 1961-1979 period covered by the law.

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Human rights in Brazil: It isn’t even past

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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