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The Report of the Brazilian Truth Commission: Late Truth without Justice?

Published on January 19, 2015        Author: 

On 10 December 2014, almost 30 years after the Brazilian military dictatorship (1964-1985) had come to an end, the “National Truth Commission” (“Comissão Nacional da Verdade”, CNV), established on 18 November 2011, presented its Final Report following an investigation that lasted two years and seven months (from May 2012 to December 2014). The Report comprises three volumes with a total of 4400 pages. The CNV consisted of seven members (“Conselheiros”)*, who were supported by over 200 research staff. The Report describes the human rights violations committed between 1946 and 1985 in great detail, listing both perpetrators and victims. The third section of the first volume of the report lists as the four most important violations of human rights: (1) unlawful and arbitrary detentions; (2) systematic torture using physical and psychological methods (proven for at least 1843 of an estimated total of over 20,000 victims) as well as rape and sexual assault; (3) summary, arbitrary and extrajudicial executions or other forms of state murder; (4) enforced disappearance and concealment of the victims’ bodies. The report ends with 29 recommendations and four conclusions which are translated into English for the first time with this post (see appendix below). This post provides an brief overview of the report as well as an evaluation of the work of the CNV. On the whole, the report constitutes a laudable, albeit limited effort to cope with Brazil’s dictatorial past and it may hopefully contribute to changing the still dominant authoritarian mentality in the country and strengthen its democratic institutions. 


The first volume of the Report has 18 chapters and was written jointly by all members. Here the CNV provides a detailed description of those human rights violations considered to be particularly significant due to their cruelty; these were committed mainly between 1964 and 1985 under the rule of the military junta who had carried out the 1964 coup d’état. The CNV describes the dictatorship’s functioning and bureaucratic structure, including its many repressive agencies (and the various police services (“Polícia Civil, Militar e Federal”), which made the systematic commission of human rights violations possible in the first place. Apart from the extremely powerful national secret service (“Serviço Nacional de Informação”, SNI), which reported directly to the president, each ministry had its own secret service. The Commission also details the close cooperation between the militaries of the Cono Sur (Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay) as part of so-called Operation Condor and the training of the Brazilian military by foreign agencies, particularly by the “United States Army School of the Americas”.

The second volume contains Commission members’ individual contributions on human rights violations against particular groups and institutions (including members of the military (!), workers, farmers, the Church, indigenous peoples, universities, homosexuals) and on business people’s collaboration with the dictatorship. Read the rest of this entry…