Brazilian Truth Commission

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Brazilian Truth Commission

Beginning in 1979, the Archbishop of São Paulo and the World Council of Churches sponsored a clandestine nongovernmental investigation of human rights abuses by the military since the 1964 coup that had overthrown Brazilian democracy. Lawyers connected to the Catholic Church checked out documents, which they were legally authorized to do, related to more than 700 cases before military courts and photocopied more than a million pages of records (which they immediately had microfilmed, with copies sent abroad for safekeeping). In August 1985 the São Paulo diocese published Brasil: Nunca Mais, a collection of allegations of torture and murder by government forces since the military takeover. It became an instant bestseller and ensured that past human rights abuses remained in the public eye during the transition back to democratic government (Pereira). In the ten weeks after its publication, Brasil: Nunca Mais sold more than 100,000 copies (at the time, the latest novel by Brazil's most popular writer, Jorge Amado, took nearly a year to sell 200,000 copies) (Pereira). Interest in the past was not uniform across Brazilian society, however: Few Brazilians over age forty, for example, purchased Brasil: Nunca Mais (Hamber). The project also leaked the names of perpetrators, but there were few repercussions for them. No prosecutions took place and many continued to hold prominent positions in the armed forces and the police.

See alsoBrazil: Since 1889; Brazil, Revolutions: Revolution of 1964; Truth Commissions.


Catholic Church, Archdiocese of São Paulo. Torture in Brazil: A Report (English translation of Brasil: Nunca Mais). Translated by Jaime Wright. New York: Vintage Books, 1986.

Hamber, Brandon. "Living with the Legacy of Impunity: Lessons for South Africa about Truth, Justice and Crime in Brazil." Latin American Report 13: 2, 4-16.

Pereira, Anthony. "An Ugly Democracy? State Violence and the Rule of Law in Brazil." In Democratic Brazil: Actors, Institutions, and Processes, edited by Peter R. Kingstone and Timothy J. Power. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2000.

Weschler, Lawrence. A Miracle, a Universe: Settling Accounts with Torturers. New York: Pantheon Books, 1990.

                                                  Eric Brahm