Posted by David McCoy
The National Truth Commission is approaching the halfway point of its two-year mandate, and several articles have been published recently assessing the effectiveness of the truth commission at this point, including an interview with the current director of the Commssion, Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro.
One story defends the usefulness of the Commission but criticizes the lack of public access to the factual contributions and discoveries that have resulted from the work, which, due to the inability of the Commission to bypass the 1979 Amnesty Law, is the true contribution that it can make. The same story criticizes the ambiguity around the partnerships between state commissions and the national commission, in addition to the lack of transparency and lack of participatory mechanisms.
Another story begins on a more critical note with: “the National Truth Commission approaches the halfway point of its term without having revealed anything new that is relevant to the military dictatorship (1964-1985) and under doubts as to whether it is going to describe all the human rights violations in the regime.” The story later cites anonymous interviews with Commission employees who express various complaints. Generally, the employees complained that, while much has been clarified, the principal goal of pointing out who in the dictatorship was responsible for which deaths has been unfulfilled. They also criticized the rotation of leadership in the Commission, which subjects it to the convictions of whoever is in charge at the moment, in addition to a lack of utilization of prior advances that came from other institutions like the Amnesty Commision. The story claims that the principal complaint from the public is that little information has been divulged during the Commission’s activity so far because the Commission has decided to reveal the majority of the information it has gathered in a report at the end of its mandate. The final segment of the story is a graphic piece that looks at six advances in the area of transitional justice and refutes that any are true contributions from the Comission but rather from other institutions or actions.
A third story is an interview with the current coordinator of the National Truth Commission, Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, that is framed as a half-way point evaluation. When asked about the progress made so far by the Commission, Pinheiro responded that it took several months to build up the team that grew from six to 60 members organized into 14 working groups but that a lot of progress can be seen in the 131 public hearings with victims and 44 cases of suicide that will be revised. Pinheiro explained that it is not his place to say whether they are behind in specifically clarifying the most serious human rights violations but that truth commissions do not usually produce significant revelations by the halfway point. Pinheiro responded to the rumor that a tension exists between some members of the commission that want to divulge Commission findings now and those who want to wait until the Commission has ended. He said that this rumor does not reflect the facts and that there is no tension between the leaders of the Commission, who have known each other for 35 years.