Evaristo Saevaristo Sa / AFP / Getty Images

Brazil Truth Commission: Torture, executions amounted to state policy

Three-year investigation lists names of nearly 400 responsible for crimes under 1964–85 military dictatorship

The Brazilian government routinely used torture, summary executions and forced disappearances against dissidents during the country’s 1964-85 military dictatorship in a campaign that amounted to official policy, according to a National Truth Commission report released on Wednesday.

“During the military dictatorship, repression and elimination of political opponents became state policy, designed and implemented from decisions emanating from the presidency of the republic and military ministries,” the report said according to Brazilian newspaper Estadao.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff cries delivering a speech at the report’s presentation.
Evaristo Saevaristo Sa / AFP / Getty Images

Commission members presented the findings of the nearly three-year investigation based on over 1,000 testimonials to President Dilma Rousseff, a former Marxist who suffered a long imprisonment and torture during the dictatorship. 

Rousseff joined an underground left-wing movement shortly after Brazil’s military dictatorship took power in 1964. In 1970, when she was 22 years old, she was imprisoned for three years and subjected to torture, including electric shocks.

The report documents 434 politically motivated killings and disappearances under the dictatorship — and provides nearly 400 names of those responsible. Over half of those accused of participating in state violence were members of the military, and roughly 70 of them were generals, Estadao reported.

The report found that former President Jose Sarney was responsible for the leadership of the Internal Defense Operations Center, which led actions against the Brazilian Communist Party.

“The actions that resulted in serious human rights violations have always been under monitoring and control by the top leaders of the military regime,” the report said, according to Estadao.

The commission submitted a series of recommendations to the Brazilian government. It calls for changing the 1979 amnesty law that shields military personnel from prosecution, and changing the curriculum of military training schools. And official events commemorating the 1964 military coup should be banned, the commission notes.

The report recommended “recognition by the armed forces of their institutional responsibility for the occurrence of serious human rights violations during the military dictatorship,” Estadao reported.

Brazil's neighbors Argentina, Chile and Uruguay have all prosecuted those responsible for atrocities committed under their military dictatorships during the 1970s and ’80s. Brazil, like South Africa, is one of the few truth commissions that, in addition to naming victims and crimes, named those responsible for crimes.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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