International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Transition into a New Brazil

Brazil’s National Truth Commission is currently investigating the role of the church throughout the military rule of 64 to 85. Established in 2011 by President Rousseff, the commission will be looking into whether the clergy committed any human rights violations in their support of the totalitarian regime. Viewing the coup as a move against the communist policies of Goulart, the church supported the military and allegedly helped set up the coup. Only when the members of the church themselves also started becoming victimized by the authorities did the alliance of the church shift. The case of the evangelical churches is also similar to that of the Catholic.

The change in their stance, beginning to support human rights defenses after being targeted themselves, obviously created resentment in the minds of the people as well. Which is why I think it is crucial for the investigation of the accountability of these individuals to be conducted. Although the commission does not hold the power to prosecute, military personnel and public officials are required, by its subpoena powers, to abide by its decisions. This process must be well-rounded for several reasons that we also established in class. As a first step, it is even singlehandedly vital for the whole truth surrounding the physical AND psychological harm of a period of 21 years to come out. Then, those who are, in fact, responsible must be identified, and tried, in an effort to fully understand all the perspectives involved, as well as to ensure no questions go unanswered. The said individuals, if found guilty, must face the necessary consequences to answer for their crimes. The investigation is therefore key to set a basis on which this process can be built, step by step, while the sufferers also receive the help necessary to adapt to their post-conflict life. The closure that is aimed as a result of a combination of these efforts is what the commission should pursue – and in the Brazilian case, it seems like the progression is, hopefully, on the right track.

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3 responses to “Transition into a New Brazil

  1. iremantika November 19, 2012 at 2:38 am

    If interested in further reading on the topic, check out this blog:

    http://transitionaljusticeinbrazil.com/tag/national-truth-commission/

  2. mrivera11 November 20, 2012 at 11:08 am

    When I first read about the creation of this particular Truth Commission it was rather surprising because Brazil remained as one of the only South American countries that had undergone a dictatorship but had never established any type of trials or truth commission (like Argentina or Chile ect.). Another aspect that came to mind was, there must be an amnesty law that must be bypassed in order for this Truth Commission to have a more powerful effect on Brazilian society. Indeed there was. The Amnesty Law that was put in place in 1979 grants unrestricted amnesty to those involved in crimes (of political intent) during the dictatorship. The law applies to crimes that were committed on “both sides”, that way attempting to avoid a type of “victor’s justice”. However, it is generally viewed (as most Amnesty Laws are viewed) as a way for the main perpetrators to go unscathed. The development that you write of in your post with regard to the focus on investigations on the church for their participation in said events will be interesting to follow, particularly the response of the people given that Brazil is a highly religious society. Additionally the passing of time and what this does to evidence and peoples willingness to talk presents itself as a possible challenge for the Truth Commissions success. Nonetheless, given that the Amnesty Law was declared constitutional by the Brazilian Supreme Court although declared unconstitutional by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights the tension with regards to this law may take center stage during the duration of this Truth Commission. As a broader comment, the role of Amnesty laws in these type of situations and how they can actually hinder the reconciliation and justice process should be discussed more as often times societies tend to forget about them as they are deemed as they are approved during a time of political transition and viewed as necessary costs in order to achieve speedy and “successful” transitions.

  3. gkitamura November 20, 2012 at 11:48 am

    As the largest Catholic country in the world, the Brazil case’s newfound focus on the Church and it’s involvement is very interesting. It raises an important issue about what level of opposition or compliance religious and social organizations should have in these conflict areas. The articles on the commission are quick to point out that while some Clergy members were actively working against and dissenting the oppressive regime, many were actively supporting it. One would like to think that a religious organization would be able to remove themselves from involvement in these political matters, but that is often not possible. So, do individuals want their religious organizations to be actively involved in the politics of the countries in which they minister? The modern trend would suggest not; compliance with the government so long as religious rights are respected should be enough. However, the fact that the Church representatives eventually spoke out against the regime is evidence that they can be a force for positive change. Unfortunately, when truth commissions such as this target religious institutions, the incentive to act at all can be diminished. The safest thing for these groups to do is avoid entanglement at all. I think it is important for the commission to guard against blaming individuals who neither supported nor acted against the regime. While the religious and moral imperatives to speak out may have been there, we cannot blame clergy members or find fault with them for not speaking out against the policy of their governing body (the Vatican) and the established political order of the time. For an example like Brazil or even WWII, can we fault Church members for not speaking out until significant amounts of time had passed? What is the appropriate relationship between religious organizations and efforts to pursue restorative justice?

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