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.
The committee will investigate forced disappearance of people and human rights abuses allegedly committed over a 42 year period but without revoking the 1979 Amnesty law which was confirmed by the Brazilian Supreme Court a year ago.
The purpose of the bill is “to guarantee the peoples’ right to memory and historic truth, and promoting national reconciliation”.
The committee of seven members named by the Executive will have two years to analyze the cases to be presented.
However the relatives of disappeared have criticized the bill because it ‘won’t come up with new conclusions’ and because it supports the Amnesty law which protects the alleged military culprits of crimes against humanity.
In her message to the ruling Workers Party last September President Rousseff promised that there would be a Truth Commission, because she emphasized “in the field of human rights I will not yield”.
The draft bill creating the Commission generated rifts between the government of President Lula da Silva and the military, but tempers cooled when the political system accepted to make the investigating period much longer and respected the full force of the Amnesty Law.
“Evidence that the bill and the commission won’t do much is the fact that the military support it”, said Elizabeth Silveira from the NGO Torture Never Again.
In 2010 the Inter American Human Rights Court, CIDH, condemned Brazil for abuses committed during the military dictatorship, 1964/1985, and declared with “no juridical effects” the 1979 amnesty.
The Brazilian state admits officially the death and disappearance of 400 people compared to the 30.000 in Argentina, 3.200 in Chile and 38 in Uruguay, according to human rights organizations.
The Southern Cone military dictatorships lasted decades: Paraguay (1954/89); Brazil (1964/1985); Uruguay (1973/85); Chile (1973/1990) and Argentina (1966/1973 and 1976/1983).
In all the countries with the exception of Brazil, military and police officers allegedly involved in human rights abuses have or are facing trial.