Recognizing Human Rights Violations in Brazil
Signed into law in November 2011, the Truth Commission was approved by the Brazilian congress to address the human rights violations that occurred during the country’s military dictatorship. The Brazilian president is expected to name the commission’s seven members this month, and they will have two years to investigate and disclose information about the abuses committed during the period from 1946 to 1988. Although the Commission will enable Brazil to officially confront past abuses, a 1979 Amnesty Law prevents the gathered information from being used to prosecute perpetrators of the crimes. Nevertheless, many hope that the Truth Commission’s investigations will inspire the public will necessary to bring about an end to the impunity.
The Truth Commission’s investigations will focus on events that occurred during the Dirty War, a period of state-officiated repression of left-wing activists, students, journalists, trade unionists and others in Argentina and in cooperation with other dictatorships in the region. Even though some countries, such as Argentina and Chile, experienced more deaths, disappearances, and tortures during the Dirty War, military rule lasted longer in Brazil—from 1964 to 1985—than in any other South American country. The two-decades-long authoritarian regime began when the Brazilian Armed Forces usurped power from the left-leaning, democratically elected president João Goulart in a coup d’état. The military government greatly restricted political freedoms, such as freedom of speech, and targeted individuals who espoused opposing political ideology.
Retired members of the military, many of whom do not wish to revisit the past, have mounted considerable protests to the law establishing the Truth Commission. While the dissenting voices of retired military personnel cannot be easily ignored, especially considering the politicization of the armed forces in the country’s recent history, President Dilma Rousseff has remained steadfast in her support of the Truth Commission. Perhaps the female president’s decision is colored by the fact that she was once a left-wing activist who was imprisoned and tortured by military forces.
As Jews, victims and survivors of some of the most atrocious human rights violations, and as members of the international community that vowed “never again” after the Holocaust, we will follow the events in Brazil as the government and citizens attempt to come to terms with their violent past and send the message that “simply forgetting is not a viable way of dealing with past human rights violations.”
Photo courtesy brazildispatch.com