Truth Commission

Brazilian Truth Commission Publishes Damning Report

December 11, 2014

by AQ Online

After more than two years of research, Brazil’s Comissão Nacional de Verdade (National Truth Comission—CNV) delivered its official report yesterday on human rights violations committed in Brazil between 1946 and 1988—with a focus on the country’s 1964 to 1985 military dictatorship.

According to the report, “Under the military dictatorship, repression and the elimination of political opposition became the policy of the state, conceived and implemented based on decisions by the president of the republic and military ministers.” The report increased to 434 the proven number of the dead or disappeared during the period of military rule, and calls for a revision of the country’s controversial 1979 amnesty law, which shields those accused of dictatorship-era human rights abuses from prosecution.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff—who was herself a victim of torture—broke into tears while delivering a statement on the report. “We who believe in the truth, hope that this report helps make it so the ghosts of a sad and painful past can no longer find shelter in the shadows of silence and omission,” she said.

In addition to documenting cases of human rights violations, the report names 377 perpetrators responsible for deaths and disappearances during the country’s dictatorship. According to the Spanish daily El País, 191 of these alleged perpetrators are still alive.

The CNV has no prosecutorial power, but the report’s non-binding recommendations posit that the amnesty law does not apply in cases of crimes against humanity. Despite President Rousseff’s pledge to “consider the commission’s recommendations” and take all necessary actions based on the proposals, it is not yet clear whether she will push for any change in the amnesty law.

Tags: Truth Commission, Human Rights, Brazilian dictatorship

Perícia sobre morte de Goulart é inconclusiva

December 8, 2014

by Luís Henrique Vieira

Os resultados de uma perícia com o ex-presidente do Brasil, João Goulart, deposto em um golpe militar em 31 de março de 1964, foram divulgados no dia 1 de dezembro pela Comissão Nacional da Verdade. A comissão é uma iniciativa do governo brasileiro que tem como objetivo investigar possíveis violações de direitos humanos ocorridas entre 1946 e 1988.

Não foram encontradas substâncias que poderiam indicar envenenamento—hipótese levantada recentemente pela família de Goulart. Os exames, por outro lado, não revelararam sintomas de morte natural. A versão oficial diz que o ex-presidente sofreu um ataque cardíaco em 1976 durante seu exílio em Mercedes, Argentina.

Os peritos responsáveis pelos exames disseram em entrevista coletiva que ambas as possibilidades são factíveis, mas como a perícia foi realizada quatro décadas após a morte do ex-presidente, o corpo teria sofrido mudanças que inviabilizariam conclusões sobre a causa da morte.

"Um infarto agudo [...] pode ter sido a causa de morte […] assim como está registrado no certificado de óbito? Sim. Como poderia ter sido causada por outras patologias cardíacas ou até mesmo por patologias cerebrovasculares […] Inobstante a negativa dos resultados, não é possível negar […] um envenenamento," afirmou o perito da Polícia Federal Jeferson  Evangelista Corrêa.

Os exames foram realizados por três laboratórios: um no Brasil, outro na Espanha e um terceiro em Portugal com base na exumação realizada no corpo de Gourlart, em 2013. Foram testadas aproximadamente 700 mil substâncias.

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Tags: João Goulart, Brazil dictatorship, Truth Commission

Bahia Empowered in Brazil’s Search for Truth

September 16, 2013

by Shari Wejsa

Brazil’s Comissão Nacional da Verdade (National Truth Commission—CNV), responsible for investigating human rights violations committed by state agents under the country’s military dictatorship between 1964 and 1985, was inaugurated on May 16, 2012 with much fanfare.

At the time, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff emphasized the importance of democratic progress, calling the ceremony “a celebration of transparency of truth of a nation that continues in its democratic path.”  But not everyone has agreed with Rousseff’s optimism.

Many military and police officials have raised questions about the Commission’s partiality, arguing that it fails to consider the “war” Brazil endured during the dictatorship against an “infiltrated enemy, [who was] armed, unknown, and used false identities.”  Some have even claimed that Rousseff designed the entity in retaliation for the torture she endured as a political prisoner during the military dictatorship. The Clube Naval (Naval Club), a private association for members of the Brazilian Navy, created a "parallel truth commission" to shield military officials who may be called to testify at the CNV and to present a countermeasure to possible criticism of the Armed Forces.

Non-military criticism also exists. Many human rights groups allege that,  lacking the ability to punish the accused, the CNV will not provide adequate justice to victims and their families.  Other critics argue that the CNV could "reopen wounds" in Brazilian society and "divide Brazilians," thus threatening the country’s democratic progress.  Some suggest that two years—the period the Commission has been granted to execute its mandate—is an inadequate period of time for a commission of only five members. Others claim that the Brazilian government should have consulted the public before determining the role of the CNV.

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Tags: Brazil, Truth Commission, Bahia

Brazil Truth Commission Investigates Former President’s Death

January 24, 2013

by AQ Online

Brazil’s Truth Commission said yesterday that it planned to investigate the death of former Brazilian President Juscelino Kubitschek, a centrist politician popularly known as “JK,” who died in a car accident in 1976.

According to a report released late last year by the Minas Gerais chapter of the Ordem de Advogados do Brasil  (OAB), a branch of the national bar association, Brazil’s 1964-1985 military regime likely ordered Kubitschek’s death. In 2000, former Rio de Janeiro Governor Leonel Brizola alleged that the car crash that killed Kubitschek was arranged as part of Operation Condor, a secret hemispheric campaign of state terror responsible for the death and disappearance of thousands of people during a wave of Latin American dictatorships in the 1970s and 1980s.

Kubitschek governed Brazil from 1956 to 1961, and was well known for his role in overseeing the creation of the city of Brasilia to develop the country’s interior. He opposed the military coup and had ambitions to run for president again. Both Kubitschek and his driver, Geraldo Ribeiro, died on August 22, 1976. The OAB says that Ribeiro was shot in the head by an unknown assailant and the car crashed into a truck on a highway between Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, killing both men.

Brazil’s seven-member Truth Commission was approved in 2011 and began work last year to investigate the country’s dictatorship-era human rights abuses. The commission does not have the legal authority to put defendants on trial, due to Brazil’s 1979 amnesty law that shields civilians and military from prosecution for crimes against humanity. However, the commission may reveal the names of those responsible for Kubitschek and Ribeiro’s deaths and provide evidence that could be used in a criminal trial.

Tags: Juscelino Kubitschek, Truth Commission, Brazil

Anniversary of a Coup: Insecurity, Impunity and Isolation in Honduras

July 1, 2010

by Daniel Altschuler

One year ago this week, the Honduran military expelled President Manuel Zelaya from the country. The coup immediately prompted domestic tumult and international condemnation.  With elections in November, however, the Honduran political establishment and the Obama administration banked on the country moving beyond the coup domestically and normalizing relations with the world.  But theirs were rose-colored glasses; a coup’s effects are not so easily undone.

Honduras is now struggling with the long-term damage that coups inflict on the rule of law and the enduring costs of international isolation.  Even after de facto President Roberto Micheletti ceded power to Porfirio Lobo following an election, insecurity and impunity reign domestically, and most of Latin America continues to isolate the country.  The battle for international legitimacy remains President Lobo’s principal concern, and has also brought issues onto the domestic agenda that put Lobo at loggerheads with powerful supporters of last year’s coup.

Many on the Right claim that, by ousting Zelaya, the political establishment was responding legitimately to an over-reaching president.  And, indeed, in the first half of 2009, Zelaya flouted court rulings that deemed unconstitutional a referendum that would pave the way for a constituent assembly.  At one stage, Zelaya and his supporters seized referendum ballots held by the military under Supreme Electoral Tribunal orders.

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Tags: Organization of American States, Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, Roberto Micheletti, Truth Commission, Porfirio Lobo, Central American Integration System

Brazil to Investigate Abuses under Military Dictatorship

November 5, 2009

by AQ Online

On December 9, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva will formally announce the establishment of a Brazilian Truth Commission.  Brazil is the only country in Latin America that has not yet held trials or investigated deaths, disappearances and torture under military rule. 

While there were fewer abuses in Brazil under dictatorship than in Argentina or Chile, nearly 500 people were killed by security forces or disappeared between 1964 and 1985. 
A 1979 Amnesty Law has effectively prevented any Brazilian officials from being criminally charged for human rights abuses, though the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights concluded on April 9, 2009, that amnesties and statutes of limitations cannot be applied to crimes against humanity committed by the dictatorship. 

Although there has been no formal investigation, Catholic and Protestant priests covertly wrote and released “Brasil: Nunca Mais” in 1986.  Once released, the report led to city-based inquiries, local reparations programs and communities honoring victims.  President Lula's government also released a report based on an 11-year investigation in 2007, but has done little to hold human rights violators accountable.

President Lula, who was jailed for union organizing efforts under the dictatorship, announces the commission with just one year remaining in office.  Some members of the coalition government are reportedly opposed to reopening the past.  Defense Minister Nelson Jobim has called the prior efforts of families and torture survivors to obtain justice merely seeking "revenge."

Tags: Human Rights, Brazil, Dictatorship, Truth Commission