International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Building Truth in Brazil

Recently we have been learning about Truth Commissions and Traditional Forms of Justice, newly established mechanisms to deal with victimized population in post-conflict societies. Their focus on revealing the truth, acknowledging crimes and providing reparation has allowed this type of transitional justice to expand and be recognized as an alternative to criminal justice. During the 1950’s and 1960’s a wave of military dictatorships took over Latin America. For decades countries like Brazil, Chile and Argentina were ruled by terrifying regimes that repressed their population and inhumanly punished suspected political opponents. In Brazil human right violations were committed by torturing, assassinating, imprisoning and disappearing thousands of people. At last, approximately twenty years later president Dilma Rouseff , who herself was victim of torture during a military dictatorship has announced that Brazil will establish a Truth Commission to reveal the crimes committed during the country’s military regime.

Nonetheless the commission it is only being establish to provide victims with the right to truth and not to criminally punish the perpetrators. The commission is designed to acknowledge the atrocities experienced during military dictatorship, to explain what really happened during those years and provide historical documentation of the actual facts so that it is not repeated again in Brazilian history.

Despite the good intentions of the Brazilian administration to acknowledge victims crimes and provide accountability, I highly doubt that this truth commission could compensate the victims. For many of those whose family members disappeared, were killed or tortured the past is not forgotten it is something they have to live with everyday. I believe that in this situation truth is not enough to reconcile Brazilians, criminal justice is necessary to attain peace for victims.


4 responses to “Building Truth in Brazil

  1. aboampon April 22, 2012 at 11:18 am

    I definitely agree with you that the Truth Commission that is to be established by President Rousseff does not seem very promising in a punitive sense I think it could be very worthwhile in a restorative sense. In our class we have spoken a great deal about how in other cases in Latin American Truth Commission that have been set up well after atrocities have been committed have done well to sustain peace and restorative justice. I think that President Rousseff is hoping for the same result within her own country. The article touches on this point. Although this may not be the most perfect mechanism in dealing with the events that occurred between 1964-1985 in Brazil, I think that if this Truth Commission is structured fairly it could be a useful step in the right direction and insure some transitional justice for a group of people who would not otherwise have any. The article also mentions that the establishment of the Truth Commission has made the military in Brazil nervous, because these commissions my inadvertently lead to justice for victims. I think this possibility is very important.

  2. dksekurski April 22, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    In the article, the author explains that truth commissions are very enmeshed in politics and require compromise. This can be seen in Brazil’s truth commission where the military has a “plural commission” of appointed military judges, as well as the goal of solely seeking the truth and not punitive justice for victims. However, out of this compromise comes what I think is a very unique attempt at addressing current violence by the military and police forces rather than just hoping to prevent what occurred during the years of dictatorship. In the article, the Brazilian dictatorship is described as having “democratized a culture of violence”. I completely agree that victims of the dictatorship deserve justice as well as the restorative truth. But where the military makes this difficult, it is commendable that the commission will indirectly help victims of the present by painting a picture of historical violence that will hopefully incite an inspiration and need to stop a culture of impunity and police brutality in Brazil.

    Brazil is the last of country in the region once ruled by a dictatorship to create a truth commission. Thus, it is a follower in that it can learn from its neighbors’ mistakes in their commissions. But as a solid democracy, Brazil can use the set up and goals of this commission to be a model for other democracies throughout the world in a push to confront their own histories of violence and injustice.

  3. Alana Tiemessen April 23, 2012 at 11:26 am

    Is this one of those cases where a truth commission is simply better than nothing? The way transitional justice practices have evolved, truth commissions have more credibility and legitimacy if they are complementary to retributive processes and are free of political interference. This doesn’t seem to be the case in Brazil.

    Great comments and analysis above.

  4. c131178n April 26, 2012 at 11:43 am

    I also think that the Truth Commission, in this context, is better than nothing. In addition to the point that victims have long been waited for relief measures and simply getting the sense of progress by knowing the truth is significant to them, I think this will give a momentum to the implementation of reparations to victims. In the assigned readings, OHCHR is mentioning the potential role of Truth Commissions in implementing reparations programs. Firstly, they can compile information about victims which is necessary for carrying out need-based effective policies. Secondly, they have a positive impact on how their recommendations on reparations are perceived because they enjoy high degree of moral capital. Thirdly, the Truth Commission can easily create links between reparations and other justice initiatives such as truth-seeking. In addition, I think the report from the Truth Commission can raise public awareness which sympathize victims and increase supports towards reparations policies.

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