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Commission seeks end to amnesty for human rights abusers

December 10, 2014

Brazil's leadership has set up a commission of truth to investigate human rights abuses perpetrated by the dictatorship from the 1960s to the 1980s. President Rousseff welcomed its findings in an emotional speech.

Dilma Rousseff Übergabe Bericht der Wahrheitskommissionen 10.12.2014
Image: Evaristo Sa/AFP/Getty Images

Brazil's National Truth Commission called Wednesday for an end to amnesty for perpetrators of human rights violations committed during the 1964-1985 military dictatorship.

The commission was sworn in in 2011 by President Dilma Rousseff, who herself was a guerrilla fighter against the regime and was subjected to torture while imprisoned.

"We respect and revere all those who fought for democracy," said Rousseff in an emotional speech at the report's launch ceremony in the capital, Brasilia.

"Brazil deserves the truth," she added. "The new generations deserve the truth. And most of all, those who deserve the truth are those who lost family members, friends, companions and continue to suffer as if they died again each and every day," Rousseff said, fighting back tears. "We, who believe in the truth, hope that this report contributes to make it so that ghosts from a sad and painful past are no longer able to find shelter in silence."

The commission said 434 people had either been killed or disappeared while the regime was in power and added that this count was likely an undercount: "These are only the cases it was possible to verify ... despite obstacles to the investigation, notably the lack of access to to armed forces' documentation, which is officially said to have been destroyed," a commission statement read.

"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 states.

"Under the military dictatorship, repression and the liquidation of political opponents became state policy," it added.

After sifting through evidence from court proceedings, morgue and hospital reports and interviewing over 1,000 witnesses, the commission created a report of over 2,000 pages identifying 377 state officials responsible for serious human rights violations.

Brazil has not prosecuted any military officials for crimes committed under the regime because of an amnesty law, which has been in place since 1979. The law, passed by the military regime at the time, prevents those responsible for rights violations from being tried and punished.

sb/mg (AP, AFP)