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Brazil torture report
AP Photo/Eraldo Peres
Dilma Rousseff receives Brazil’s National Truth Commission Report.

Brazil’s torture report moved its president—a torture survivor—to tears

By Jenni Avins

The day after the US Senate released a 525-page summary of the CIA’s torture practices, Brazil released its own report on torture: thousands of pages detailing the human rights violations committed between 1946 and 1988—especially during the country’s two decade military dictatorship.

The details are devastating:

  • A 20 year-old student who died of internal hemorrhaging from beatings, whose death was previously reported as a suicide.
  • An activist for agrarian reform and father of 11, murdered by hired killers.
  • A professor who loved to sing and play the guitar, last seen by her friends on Christmas day, 1973, when the military massacred a group of guerrilla activists.

The statistics are similarly grim: 210 people disappeared, 191 killed, and 33 bodies located. The report also names 377 people responsible for the violence. The findings are the results of nearly three years of research by Brazil’s National Truth Commission.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, herself a victim of torture by the dictatorship, launched the Truth Commission in 2012, arguing that Brazilians deserve to know the truth. On Wednesday, she broke into tears and stopped her speech for a standing ovation, when she echoed that sentiment:

Here’s what she had to say:

“We, who believe in the truth, hope this report helps make it so the ghosts of a painful and sad past can no longer hide in the shadows of silence and omission…Brazil deserves the truth. The new generations deserve the truth. And above all, those who deserve the truth are those who lost family members, friends, companions and continue to suffer as if they died again each and every day. I am certain that you, the members of the National Truth Commission, fulfilled your mission over these 31 months, researching, inquiring, and listening, to know our history. You have brought to light, without fear, a period that was kept dark through strong will and violence…Those who give history a voice are the free men and women who are not afraid to write it.

The truth does not mean vengeance. The truth should not be a reason for hatred or reckoning…The truth produces conscience, knowledge, wisdom, and respect. The truth represents, above all, the opportunity to for us to meet ourselves and our history, and for our people to know themselves and their history. Making this document public today is a tribute to all the women and men of the world who fight for liberty, for democracy. And with this fight they help to make civil progress, and to improve humanity. Congratulations to the National Truth Commission. Congratulations to everyone who contributed to the production of this report. Brazil will certainly know the importance of this work, that makes our democracy even stronger.”