SAO PAULO – Brazilian Human Rights Minister Paulo Vannuchi defended plans to create a truth commission to investigate human rights abuses under the 1964-1985 dictatorship, saying the probe would not be an act of revenge against the military.
“Creating a truth commission would benefit the armed forces ... there’s no vengeful intent,” Vannuchi told the official Agencia Brasil news service.
The planned commission, mentioned in the recently published National Human Rights Plan, or PNDH, reportedly raised hackles among members of the military and prompted Defense Minister Nelson Jobim and the nation’s army, navy and air force commanders to submit their resignations to President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
On Wednesday, Justice Minister Tarso Genro denied that Jobim and the top military brass had tendered their resignations; he acknowledged that the PNDH had sparked a dispute but said the differences are not “irreconcilable.”
Vannuchi, who stressed that the PNDH does not foresee the repeal of the 1979 amnesty law protecting agents of the junta, drew a distinction between military personnel “dedicated to the country and public service” and those allegedly responsible for torturing and killing opponents of the dictatorship.
“We need to finish the process without vengefulness, without returning to the past and with hands extended for national reconciliation,” the minister said, though adding that “can’t mean covering up” crimes against humanity.
But plans to create the commission have irked the nation’s military and prompted complaints of a hidden agenda to overturn the Amnesty Law, which shields both agents of the junta and dictatorship-era leftist militants – also implicated in rights abuses – from prosecution.
The PNDH says nothing about revoking the law but it recalls that Brazil’s highest court is considering a motion to not afford amnesty protection to “agents responsible for torture, homicide, forced disappearance” and other forms of politically motivated violence.
The Brazilian bar association – which filed the motion – and human rights groups say those offenses are considered crimes against humanity in international accords signed by Brazil and, as such, are not subject to the statute of limitations.
Jobim told the official Agencia Brasil news service last year that “there are South American countries that still are reliving their past and not building their future,” adding that, in the case of Brazil, he wants “energy spent on the future.”
Argentina’s Congress and Supreme Court in recent years overturned 1980s amnesty laws that had protected more than 1,000 members and agents of the military regime from prosecution.
Judicial rulings in Chile have essentially rendered a 1978 amnesty law a dead letter.
So-called “dirty wars” waged by security forces of Southern Cone dictatorships in the 1970s and 1980s resulted in the kidnapping and murder of tens of thousands of people, human rights groups say.
The bodies of many never were found, having been buried in clandestine graves or thrown from military aircraft into the ocean.
Tens of thousands of other real or imagined political opponents were tortured and imprisoned by the regimes.