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Brazil truth commission to probe only junta crimes

Wednesday, September 19, 2012    

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SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) — Brazil's Truth Commission will investigate only human rights abuses committed by the country's former dictatorship, not any crimes committed by opponents of the 1964-1985 regime.

The commission said yesterday on its website that it has been told to only look at the torture, murder and forced disappearances carried out by government agents of people opposed to the dictatorship.

It said it did not have the authority to investigate the acts of individuals that were not public agents.

Retired military officers criticised the announcement, saying the panel must also look into violations committed by leftist guerrillas who opposed the regime.

Retired admiral Ricardo Antonio da Veiga Cabral said by telephone that the commission's decision will result in an "unfinished, one-side investigation in which only half the truth will be known."

"Crimes were committed by both sides, so both sides must be investigated," he said.

Retired officers often express the opinion of the armed forces since military personnel are prohibited by law from doing so publicly.

Last year, President Dilma Rousseff, a former leftist guerrilla who was imprisoned for more than three years and tortured during the dictatorship, signed into law the bill that established the commission. The move faced resistance from conservative segments of the military, who expressed concern the current left-leaning government would use it as an instrument of revenge.

The commission was given two years to conclude its investigation.

Its report won't result in prosecutions because of a 1979 law granting amnesty for political crimes committed during the dictatorship era. The commission does, however, have subpoena powers, and public servants and military personnel are legally obligated to cooperate.

Advocates say that investigating who was involved in torture, murders and disappearances is essential if Brazil is to move forward. Other South American countries that had repressive regimes, including Argentina, Chile and Uruguay, have punished those involved in abuses.

A recent study by the Brazilian government concluded last year that 475 people were killed or "disappeared" by agents of the military regime, far less than in neighboring Argentina or Chile.

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