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Right to the Truth

For the first time, Brazil investigates the hidden facts of the military dictatorship

“Brazil deserves the truth, newer generations deserve the truth and, above all, those who have lost friends and relatives, and who continue to suffer as if [those individuals had] died again and always, every day, deserve factual truth.”

These words, uttered by President Dilma at the swearing in ceremony for members of the National Truth Commission (CNV) – and repeated during the ceremony at which the commission’s final report was presented – summarizes the motivation that led to the creation of a body to investigate and disclose hidden facts about what occurred in Brazil between 1946 and 1988.

In 2010, President Lula sent to the federal congress draft legislation to create the commission, which was approved and signed into law the following year by President Dilma, herself a victim of the military dictatorship that seized power in 1964. During their tenure, the members of the CNV collected 1,121 statements (132 of them in public), held 80 public hearings and briefings around the country, and visited – along with experts and the victims of repression – seven military units and sites that had been used by the military to the practice of torture and other serious human rights violations.

The facts confirmed 434 deaths and disappearances of victims of the military regime, with 191 dead, 210 missing, and 33 missing whose bodies had their whereabouts located – one of which was discovered as part of the CNV’s work.
Proven violations included arrests without legal warrant, torture, killings, sexual violence, executions, concealment of corpses, and forced disappearances.

The CNV identified 377 agents of repression, who were directly or indirectly responsible for the torture and killings that occurred during the military dictatorship.

Want to know more?

Read the final report of the National Truth Commission



The investigation of the Riocentro attack and the exhumation of the body of João (“Jango”) Goulart were on the CNV agenda

Since work on the National Truth Commission began in 2012, Brazilians were finally able to come to terms with some of history’s still open wounds.

Among these was the attack on Riocentro [the Rio de Janeiro exhibition and convention center] on the night of April 30, 1981, when more than 20,000 people were attending a concert headlined by the leading names in Brazilian popular music. A tragedy of major proportions failed to occur because the bomb that would have been used in the attack exploded prematurely, killing two agents of the dictatorship who were inside a car near the venue. A second bomb exploded inside Riocentro, at the mini electrical station responsible for the local power supply, but left no casualties.

According to the CNV report, “the Riocentro explosions were the result of care and planning on the part of a dedicated team, which included the participation of military. “For years, the document states, those involved in the episode tried to attribute the terrorist action to groups that were resisting the military dictatorship, but that account could not be sustained due to a lack of evidence, as well as inconsistencies and contradictions in the story. Finally, the CNV report states that the purpose of the attack was to delay a democratization process that was already underway in the country.

Read the report, “The Riocentro Incident: State terrorism against the Brazilian people” here


Justice for Jango

Arrival ceremony in Brasilia of the remains of President João Goulart Photo: Roberto Stuckert Filho/PR

In November 2013, the National Truth Commission completed the exhumation process on the remains of former Brazilian President João (“Jango”) Goulart, who was deposed by the 1964 military coup. A request for exhumation, by Goulart’s family, had been underway since 2007, as they had never been convinced of the official cause of death (heart attack). The results of an examination of the former president’s remains will be announced immediately after the analysis has been completed.

Jango, who died during the years of the dictatorship, lived out his life in exile and was buried without those honors traditionally reserved for a head of state. That is why, after the exhumation, the remains of the former president were taken to Brasília Air Force Base, where President Dilma led a memorial service typically held in honor of presidents and former presidents.

Want to know more?

On the CNV’s website, you can track and get updated news on the progress of its activities, and read all of its Partial Research Reports, which have been released over the past two years.

Lula and Dilma create mechanisms to eradicate torture, the dark legacy of the dictatorship

Lula and Dilma have undertaken to eradicate from the nation’s life the dark legacy of dictatorship – torture. In 2005, Lula’s administration implemented the Integrated Action Plan to Prevent and Combat Torture (PAIPCT), whose objective is to impede and otherwise prevent the practice of torture, in addition to increasing the possibility of punishing torturers. In 2013, President Dilma signed Law 12,847 , which created the National System for the Prevention and Fight Against Torture (SNPCT).

In practice, the SNPCT connects three existing bodies – the National Penitentiary Department, the National Council on Criminal and Penitentiary Policy, both of which are attached to the Ministry of Justice; and the Presidential Office on Human Rights’ National Committee to Prevent and Combat Torture – and creates a new one. The new entity is the National Mechanism for Preventing and Combating Torture, which is responsible for making visits to sites where individuals have been deprived of their liberty, requesting that investigations be opened, conduct examinations, preparing reports, organizing data, and suggesting public policies.

Right to Memory and Truth: Lest we forget, so it never happens again

In August 2006, Brazil took a historic step towards shaping its own future by choosing to recall its past. With the institution of the Project to Promote the Right to Memory and Truth (DMV), Brazil began to recover and disclose hidden passages of the years when it was being ruled by a military dictatorship.

An important battle front was the search for the remains of disappeared political activists, reconstruction of information about a past marked by violence and human rights violations, and official recognition by the state of the mistakes made during the dictatorial period.

At the same time, events were held, such as the exhibition, “The  Right to Memory and Truth: The Dictatorship in Brazil (1964-1985), which commemorated 27 years of the nation’s Amnesty Law, which permitted exiled activists to return to Brazil, but also prohibited human rights violators from being prosecuted. A series of books began to tell the unvarnished truth, one of the first of these being the report of the Special Commission on Political Deaths and Disappearances, which contained cases that were examined by the commission between 1996 and 2007. The project also resulted in the installation of Indispensable Persons Memorials in honor of those who participated in the resistance struggle against the military regime.

As a means of strengthening democracy, in 2009, the third version of the National Human Rights Program (PNDH-3) established, among its guidelines, recognition of memory and truth as a human right of citizenship and a duty of the state, preservation of historical memory and the public construction of truth, and the modernization of legislation related to the promotion of the right to memory and truth.
The PNDH-3 anticipated the creation of the National Truth Commission (CNV), as had already occurred in at least 40 other countries around the world, many of them in Latin America, which had also lived through dictatorships and exceptional regimes that committed serious human rights violations.

On December 10, 2014, President Dilma received the final report of the National Truth Commission, which recovers the stories of 434 individuals who died or were disappeared at the hands of the dictatorship. Then, the president, herself imprisoned and tortured by the military regime, said
“Brazil deserves the truth, newer generations deserve the truth and, above all, those who have lost friends and relatives, and who continue to suffer as if [those individuals had] died again and always, every day, deserve factual truth.”

Nothing was ever more true.