RIO DE JANEIRO, (Reuters) – Brazil is close to creating a Truth Commission to investigate abuses committed during its 1964-1985 military dictatorship, ending a 26-year taboo on delving deeply into the period but falling short of calls for human rights abusers to face justice.
A bill to create the commission, loosely based on South Africa’s post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission, has won the backing of the still-influential armed forces and enough support in Congress for President Dilma Rousseff to sign off on it in coming weeks, government officials say.
Rousseff, a former leftist guerrilla who was tortured with beatings and electric shocks in the early 1970s, made creating the body one of her priorities for her first year in office that has so far been dogged by graft scandals and a lack of progress on reforms.
But she has had to steer a delicate path between long-standing demands from the leftist wing of her Workers’ Party to address the abuses and the military’s rejection of anything that smacks of “revenge.”
As a result, the new body will be a timid step compared to Brazil’s regional neighbors such as Argentina and Chile, where former military top brass have been tried and imprisoned.
The Brazilian military’s long-held opposition to a commission has eased since last year when the Supreme Court upheld the interpretation of the country’s 1979 Amnesty Law, which protects suspected torturers from facing trials.
The commission’s aim is not to apportion blame, but to “rescue memories” and give Brazilians the first comprehensive history of abuses committed during the period, officials say.
“At the moment the most important thing is memory,” said Jose Genoino, special adviser for the defense ministry.
“This is more radical than condemning anyone. After we have memory and truth, there may be other questions.”