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Volkswagen agrees to compensate victims for human rights violations during Brazil dictatorship
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Volkswagen agrees to compensate victims for human rights violations during Brazil dictatorship

Volkswagen do Brasil, a subsidiary of the German Volkswagen Group, signed a Conduct Adjustment Agreement (CAA) on Thursday, agreeing to pay out R$36M (reals), or about USD $6.5M, to victims of human rights violations during the Brazilian military rule.

A report by the National Truth Commission (NTC) in 2014 revealed that Volkswagen cooperated with the country’s military dictatorship from 1964 to 1985. The report highlighted human rights violations from forced disappearances and torture to sexual violence and executions.

Following the report, Volkswagen hired Dr. Christopher Kopper, a historian at the University of Bielefeld, in 2016 to conduct research to determine whether the company had cooperated with the military regime in committing human rights abuses. Volkswagen claims that “there was cooperation between individuals of site security at Volkswagen do Brasil,” but does not admit to any collusion on behalf of the corporation itself.

Hiltrud Werner, head of Volkswagen AG’s Integrity and Legal Affairs made a statement with the announcement of the payments to victims:

[Volkswagen] sincerely regret[s] the violations that have occurred in the past. We are aware that it is a joint responsibility of corporates and the broader society to respect human rights and foster their observance. For Volkswagen AG, it is important that we deal responsibly with this negative chapter in the Brazilian history and foster transparency.

Volkswagen has agreed to pay R$9M to the Federal and State Funds for the Defense and Reparation for Diffuse Rights (FDD), R$10.5M to projects “promoting the memory and truth” of the crimes against humanity committed during the Brazilian dictatorship, and R$4.5M to the Federal University of São Paulo. The University will use the funds to conduct forensic investigations of the victims who are buried in mass graves and to develop research regarding the compliance of companies in human rights violations conducted by the government.

Groups like the Fight for Justice Memorial (an initiative guided by the Brazilian Bar Association [OAB]) and the Henrich Plagge Association will also receive payments from Volkswagen.

The agreement will not be finalized until the São Paulo Prosecutor’s Office and Federal Prosecutor’s Office for Civil Rights of the 3rd Region have completed their investigations.