In The News (Since We’ve Been Out)…

Posted by David McCoy

Due to the transition between academic semesters as well as the chaos caused in New Orleans by Hurricane Isaac, the blog took a short hiatus. This post will serve to update readers on the significant news coverage and occurrences since the last post.

On the 17th of August, the Truth Commission announced on its site that it will only investigate crimes committed by the military regime, as opposed to those committed by leftist guerrillas or opposition groups. The resolution was made by the council itself and was criticized by some retired military officers. The AP covered the story, which was picked up by various publications in English.

On the 24th of September, a judge in Sao Paulo approved the rectification of Vladimir Herzog’s death certificate after a request, endorsed by the Truth Commission, that was sent on the 30th of August. Herzog, a journalist during the military regime, was the subject of widespread national and international protest when he was assassinated in the infamous Doi-Codi facility in 1975. His death was a significant mobilizer of the masses before the transition to democracy, and his case is particularly emblematic–if not outright symbolic–of Brazilian transitional justice, as his death certificate previously stated that he had committed suicide in his cell in the Doi-Codi even though it was common knowledge that he had been assassinated. In the same press release, the Truth Commission noted that the success in revising Herzog’s death certificate will likely lead to rectification for other victims.

Also on the 24th of September, the Truth Commission released a list of names of 140 victims of crimes during the dictatorship whose cases will be investigated in order to offer rectification in the same sense as with Vladimir Herzog’s case. Of the 140 victims, 91 involved cases of reported death, and 49 of the cases involved disappearances. The list of names involves persons who were killed or disappeared in the state of Sao Paulo or were born there but were killed or disappeared outside of the state, and the Commission talked of a high degree of cooperation with the State Truth Commission of Sao Paulo. “These cases are going to be remembered, principally with regard to the violence, the brutality of which these people were victims,” said Rosa Cardoso da Cunha of the National Truth Commission.

On the 10th of October, the Truth Commission passed a resolution establishing the parameters under which it will coordinate action with the State Commissions and other counterpart entities in order to prevent redundancies and overlapping procedures. The resolution states that the National Truth Commission, in principle, will not duplicate procedures opened within the State Commissions with which the national commission has established a formal cooperation agreement. The resolution also states that, when appropriate, the National Commission can delegate its activities to the state-level commissions as well as lend its powers to those entities. A quote from a Truth Commission press release by Cláudio Fonteles, Truth Commission councilman, gives insight into the reasoning behind the decentralization of the National Truth Commission’s  task: “Keeping in mind that the grand mission of the National Truth Commission is to promote the creation  of a permanent network in defense of democracy within civil society, the NTC operationalizes this objective by establishing, with this resolution, the parameters for partnerships with all of its counterparts in the diverse states.”

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