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Brazil lawmakers approve truth commission

Brazil's Chamber of Deputies [official website, in Portuguese] approved [press release, in Portuguese] a bill [materials, in Portuguese] on Wednesday that establishes a truth commission to investigate human rights abuses from 1946 to 1988. The bill must now be signed into law by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff [BBC profile], a former guerrilla fighter. Almost 500 people were killed or abducted [BBC report] by the military-controlled government, and thousands more were tortured. The bill establishes a commission of seven individuals that have two years to investigate human rights abuses. The bill does not, however, overturn the 1979 Amnesty Law [text, PDF, in Portuguese] which shields military officials from prosecution for crimes committed during the country's 1964-1985 military dictatorship.

In August Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] urged Brazil to repeal its amnesty law [JURIST report]. In December the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) [official website, in Spanish] ruled that the amnesty law was invalid [JURIST report] because it was incompatible with the American Convention on Human Rights [text]. Other Latin American countries have also been working to revoke amnesty laws. On Thursday, Uruguay's legislature voted to repeal the 1986 amnesty law [JURIST report] which prevented investigations, adjudications and human rights prosecutions of military junta officials during their regime between 1973-1985. In March 2010, AI urged government officials in El Salvador to repeal a 1993 amnesty law that prevents any investigation [JURIST reports] into killings committed during the country's 12-year civil war [PBS backgrounder], including the killing of respected Catholic Archbishop Oscar Romero [BBC backgrounder, JURIST news archive]. In 2005, Argentina's Supreme Court struck down similar amnesty laws [JURIST report] adopted in the 1980s to protect potential defendants, prompting the government to reopen hundreds of human rights cases.

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