Instituto Herzog: Let’s charge the Truth Commission – 05/24/2023 – Power
Rogério Sottili, executive director of the Vladimir Herzog Institute, says that, to face the culture of violence in Brazil, it is necessary to face impunity. With this objective in mind, the institute handed over to the Human Rights Commission of the Chamber of Deputies, on April 26, the report “Strengthening Democracy: Monitoring the Recommendations of the National Truth Commission”.
The document, made in partnership with the Friedrich Ebert Brasil Foundation, outlines the status of the recommendations made in the final report of the National Truth Commission (CNV), presented in December 2014.
The CNV, created to investigate crimes during the military dictatorship, managed to confirm 434 deaths and disappearances of victims of the regime – which means that the real number for the period, from 1964 to 1985, must be even higher.
The 2014 report brings 29 general recommendations, in addition to some thematic recommendations focusing on human rights violations of specific groups, such as indigenous peoples and the LGBTQIA+ population.
The recommendations range from the most general —the first calls for recognition by the Armed Forces of responsibility “for the occurrence of serious human rights violations” during the dictatorship— to the most specific —the “modification of the curriculum content of military and police academies”. In the institute’s assessment, only two were fully complied with.
In an effort to charge the Brazilian State, the Vladimir Herzog Institute proposed to the government the creation of an inter-ministerial commission with the participation of civil society so that the CNV recommendations were carried out.
In an interview with Sheet, Sotilli commented on the importance of the report they delivered at the end of April and said that President Lula (PT) has a “great opportunity” to make changes after the January 8 attacks and with the wear and tear of the Armed Forces.
What were the Vladimir Herzog Institute’s methods for gathering all the information about the progress of the recommendations? We wanted to build the status of each recommendation, evaluating exactly where each one was being carried out, whether there was progress, if there were setbacks, if it remained exactly the same. Identify where it left off and identify the actors involved, the responsibility of the bodies, so that there could be pressure on these bodies, so that [as recomendações] were complied with, understanding that compliance with them would be fundamental to deepen and promote democracy in Brazil.
There is an understanding that Brazil is a violent country, culturally violent, and one of the fundamental points of this culture of violence is associated with the fact that Brazil has never promoted justice and taken to the last consequences the judicial accountability of those who are responsible for these acts of violence. . This happened during slavery, this happened during dictatorships —all the dictatorships we’ve suffered through— and it continues to produce, through the example of impunity, everyday violence.
So, for you to be able to face this culture of violence, you need to face impunity. The CNV, with its recommendations, points out the most important issues to face and hold the State responsible for this violence.
The Vladimir Herzog Institute is amicus curiae [instituição que presta apoio a um tribunal, fornecendo-lhe informações pertinentes ao caso] of the ADPF [Arguição de Descumprimento de Preceito Fundamental] 320 on a reinterpretation of the Amnesty Law, so that it does not apply to cases of human rights violations during the dictatorship. How is this legal issue? Minister Dias Toffoli [relator da ação] had a very strong demonstration five years ago, when he defended that there was not a military coup, but a “military movement”. Which is unacceptable revisionism, and is completely opposed to ADPF 320, to the recommendations of the CNV —approved as a State policy, not a government one. So he already has an opinion about it. It will be very difficult to be the rapporteur of an ADPF that has not even been discussed. Unless he has an immense capacity to open himself up to the new and resignify himself.
What do we expect from now on? We will resume contact with the Federal Supreme Court. We are going to make a written statement first for all ministers, putting them up to speed again and saying that this ADPF is fundamental for democracy in Brazil, since they experienced what it is like not to take legal accountability to the last consequences —they suffered it on the day January 8th.
How can the Lula government deal with the presence of the military in the government and this kind of legacy of the Bolsonaro government? In politics, you don’t wait for the enemy to get stronger before you can face him. I think that President Lula has the opportunity to take some greater steps than he has taken in other governments in this regard, because of everything that happened on January 8th and because of all the wear and tear that the Armed Forces have been facing.
I think the report we presented is a mega opportunity, because if we get the report, there is nothing of great violence. Violence is not doing simple things. That goes through the non-commemoration of the 1964 coup, and even more important issues that are even under the scope of Justice: the reinterpretation of the Amnesty Law, the issue of the Military Academy. It is a great opportunity to take important steps forward.
And I think the most important [das recomendações] it is the total demilitarization of the Brazilian State. This is fundamental, along with judicial accountability —which depends on the courts, not on President Lula.
And how mr. Do you see this demilitarization happening? I think Lula started very well. Of the 6,000 soldiers who were serving in the Executive, close to half must have already left their political functions. We know that this is a slow process, even because they occupy important functions today that, if you lack this, a system stops.
It’s small gestures like that —demilitarization of the Presidency’s intelligence or security— that are important steps. [Mas Lula] missed the opportunity to place the GSI (Institutional Security Office) in the hand of a civilian.
Would these actions be enough to stop this desire to be in power in these sectors of the Armed Forces? I don’t think this is enough. I don’t even know if training is that fundamental. Of course she is important. But, if you take the experience of other countries, the gateway to the Armed Forces are several institutions; in Brazil, it’s just [a Academia Militar das] Agulhas Negras, which has a trajectory that we already know: it narrows.
There is no point in changing the curriculum of the Agulhas Negras. It won’t solve much. You have to change structures that allow for greater diversification of what is today the gateway to the Armed Forces, that they are represented with the face of Brazil.
Only two of the CNV’s recommendations were fully implemented: the introduction of custody hearings, and the repeal of the National Security Law. There was another that was complied with, but there was a setback, which was the Mechanism for Preventing and Combating Torture. It was also designed at the end of Lula’s government, and is a UN recommendation. And it was working really well. Michel Temer starts to dismantle, and Bolsonaro puts an end to it. He wanted to end it, but, as it had been created by a bill, he couldn’t, and in court [o mecanismo] managed to secure. But [Bolsonaro] completely took away the working conditions.
What are the next actions that the institute will take with the government? This year, from now on, we are going to focus very much on the recommendations of the CNV.
We want to charge the State, we didn’t make the report to become a dead letter. We will monitor the actions. We are going to make ourselves available to the interministerial commission, but if it doesn’t work, we’re going to make new reports, we’re going to start preparing this. Next year will be CNV’s tenth anniversary, and we would like to be celebrating important advances in complying with the recommendations.
Now, if there are no important advances, we will be there with civil society denouncing it. So let’s give it a centrality, let’s work hard on it, let’s do everything to help; and we will charge.
At the same time, we are going to work on two recommendations that we have already been following. The one from ADPF 320, which we are going to work on now, asking the Supreme Court to ask us for technical support to help them, see if this process can go ahead or not.
And another very important recommendation, on which we made a parallel report, is that of the expert system. We produced a mega report, we identified precisely the fundamental points that can create an autonomous expertise of the State Security Secretariat, which is technically strong, well equipped and well paid. So that, in fact, expertise becomes an important instrument of human rights and justice, which today it is not. Today it is often an instrument to absolve the State of the violence it commits.
X-ray | Rogerio Sottili, 64
He is executive director of the Vladimir Herzog Institute. In the federal government, he was Special Secretary for Human Rights and Executive Secretary of the General Secretariat and the Human Rights Secretariat of the Presidency of the Republic. Between 2013 and 2015, he commanded the Municipal Secretary of Human Rights and Citizenship of São Paulo. He has a master’s degree in History from the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo.