In Brazil, a truth and reconciliation commission to investigate human rights abuses under the 1964-1985 dictatorship passed Congress unanimously this week. The commission will go into effect immediately once President Dilma Rousseff names the seven members. The government recently tallied 475 people killed or disappeared under the dictatorship, substantially less than in neighboring countries. This commission seeks to investigate this crimes, although some worry history will be retold in a limited way.
The commission will have subpoena power, can demand any document it wants from the government and put witnesses under oath. But the country’s 1979 amnesty remains intact, so it won’t result in prosecutions. It’s not clear what will happen to people who refuse to talk.
In Argentina the original truth commission was seen as insufficient, or lacking appropriate teeth, as it did not include the threat of persecution, thus failing to bring those who committed crimes to justice. Since then, the laws of impunity have been overturned, and 262 people have been convicted of crimes against humanity. It is estimated that 13,000 people were killed or disappeared under the Argentine dictatorship.