Brazil must reconsider plans to commemorate the anniversary of a military coup which led to gross human rights violations for two decades, says a UN expert.
“Attempts to revise history and justify or condone gross human rights violations of the past must be clearly rejected by all authorities and society as a whole,” said the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence, Fabián Salvioli.
The appeal by the UN expert follows an order by Brazil’s President Bolsonaro telling the Ministry of Defense to mark the 55th anniversary this weekend of the coup that led to a dictatorship from 1964 to 1985.
As formally recognised by the Brazilian State, this period was marked by a regime of restrictions on fundamental rights and violent systematic repression.
According to the National Truth Commission, more than 8,000 indigenous people and at least 434 suspected political dissidents were killed or forcibly disappeared. It is also estimated that tens of thousands of others were arbitrarily arrested and/or tortured. However, an amnesty law enacted by the military dictatorship has prevented accountability for the abuses.
“Commemorating the anniversary of a regime that brought such suffering to the Brazilian population is both immoral and inadmissible in a society based on the rule of law. The authorities are under an obligation to ensure that such horrendous crimes are never forgotten, misrepresented, or left unpunished,” said the expert.
“Any actions that could justify or condone gross human rights violations during the dictatorship would further reinforce the impunity that the perpetrators have enjoyed in Brazil, hinder efforts to prevent any recurrence of such violations and weaken the trust of society in public institutions and the rule of law.”
The Special Rapporteur stressed the right of Brazilians to know the truth about past heinous crimes and about the circumstances that led to them, as well as the State’s duty to preserve evidence of such violence. “This may include preserving the collective memory of these events and guarding against the development of revisionist and negationist arguments,” he said.
An accurate account of the violations suffered by victims constitutes part of their right to reparation and satisfaction. “I am deeply concerned that the planned celebrations could lead to a process of revictimisation for those who suffered.”
Mr. Fabián Salvioli (Argentina) is the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-repetition. He took up his functions on 1 May 2018. Mr. Salvioli is a human rights lawyer and professor of International Law and Human Rights at the School of Law of the University of La Plata, where he is also Director of the Human Rights Master Program and Director of the Institute of Human Rights. He was member of the United Nations Human Rights Committee between 2009 and 2016, and its President between 2015 and 2016. In this capacity, he authored the “Guidelines on reparations” adopted by the Committee in October 2016.