Brazilian Truth Commission Has Historic Responsibility


NEW YORK, May 11, 2012—The International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) welcomes the appointment of seven distinguished experts as members of the Brazilian National Truth Commission.

“President Dilma Rousseff has taken a historic step to honor victims and ensure the people of Brazil know the full truth about the human rights abuses committed in their country,” said David Tolbert, president of ICTJ. “The pursuit of justice can only make Brazilian democracy stronger.”

ICTJ has been closely involved in the work of over a dozen truth commissions around the world and supports and congratulates the efforts of the Brazilian government and civil society to establish this institution.

The new National Truth Commission, which was signed into law by President Rousseff last November, is mandated to establish facts and responsibilities for executions, torture, disappearances, and other human rights violations committed during a four-decade period from 1946 to 1988—which includes the so-called “years of lead” under a right-wing military dictatorship, from 1964 to 1985.

The law establishing the commission requires government officials to cooperate with its work, and a new Access to Information Law also ensures that any information regarding human rights abuses cannot be classified, opening state archives for the first time. It is expected that the commission, with its broad mandate to look into gross human rights violations, will unearth massive patterns of abuse.

“While we welcome the efforts that have gone into legislation establishing the commission, the government must expect some resistance to its work,” warned Eduardo González, director of ICTJ’s Truth and Memory program. “There are still people in Brazil who feel threatened by the truth and fear that revealing the full extent of their abuses will end the impunity they now enjoy.”

Unlike most Latin American countries that endured military dictatorships during the Cold War, Brazil has never created a truth commission before. Amnesty provisions continue to shield former military officials against prosecution for human rights abuses. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has ruled the amnesty violates Brazil’s obligations under international law, but Brazil is yet to act on the court’s decision.

About ICTJ

ICTJ assists societies confronting massive human rights abuses to promote accountability, pursue truth, provide reparations, and build trustworthy institutions. Committed to the vindication of victims’ rights and the promotion of gender justice, we provide expert technical advice, policy analysis, and comparative research on transitional justice measures, including criminal prosecutions, reparations initiatives, truth seeking, memorialization efforts, and institutional reform. For more information, visit


Eduardo Gonzalez, New York (English, Spanish, Portuguese) Office +1 917 637 3812 Cell +1 347 244 0106

Kelen Meregali, New York (English, Spanish, Portuguese) Office +1 917 637 3911

Photo: Marching for freedom of expression and freedom of movement at the height of military rule. Photo courtesy of Brazil's Amnesty Commission.