NEW YORK/BRASÍLIA, Oct. 27, 2011—The Brazilian Senate’s passage of the National Truth Commission bill yesterday represents an important step for the struggle against impunity. The Government of Brazil now has the opportunity to acknowledge a painful past and to implement an effective tool to establish the facts about past abuse, to help victims heal and to allow Brazilian society to understand a painful period of their history, therefore preventing recurrent violations.
The Senate approved by unanimous decision a bill establishing the National Truth Commission. According to the bill, which had been previously passed by the Chamber of Deputies, the truth commission will investigate serious crimes committed from 1946 to 1988, which includes the military dictatorship period (1964-1985). The bill goes now to President Dilma Rousseff for signature.
Victims and human rights groups suggested amendments to ensure the commission would have the capacity to publicize its activities in advance of a final report. They also requested a period of public consultation to select members of the commission. Although these amendments were not included in the final project, they represent legitimate demands and the commission’s work should be conducted with the utmost regard for public involvement.
Another important decision taken by the Brazilian Senate this week was the passage of the Access to Information Bill, which guarantees and facilitates public access to official records, ending the permanent classification (sigilo perpetuo) of certain information. The bill establishes different levels of secrecy and corresponding time periods for classification, but it ensures documentation regarding human rights violations cannot be classified as “ultra secret” and subject to the lengthiest periods of classification.
The International Center for Transitional Justice applauds the passage of these two important legal instruments: the Access to Information Bill and the National Truth Commission can become powerful instruments for Brazilian society to affirm their right to know the truth about the abuses committed during the military dictatorship. ICTJ reiterates its views, expressed when Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies passed the Bill, earlier this year, that a truth commission presents an important opportunity for Brazil, and an example of global significance. It also reiterates its disposition to cooperate with Brazilian civil society and authorities to ensure the success of the initiative.
The International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) works to redress and prevent the most severe violations of human rights by confronting legacies of mass abuse. ICTJ seeks holistic solutions to promote accountability and create just and peaceful societies. For more information visit www.ictj.org
Eduardo Gonzalez Director, Truth and Memory Program International Center for transitional Justice +1 917 637 3812 firstname.lastname@example.org