Former political prisoners, accompanied by experts and members of the National Truth Commission, paid on September 23 a visit to the place regarded as Rio de Janeiro’s main torture center during the military dictatorship in Brazil: the old building known as DOI-Codi (Department of Information Operations – Center for Internal Defense Operations), in the district of Tijuca.
The Commission estimates that at least 30 activists who were arrested in the premises have gone missing or could have been taken to other military centers, like the Casa da Morte (House of Death), a clandestine torture center outside the city of Rio.
According to Commission chairman Pedro Dallari, the purpose of the operation is to ascertain how the area was used for torture, murder and the disappearance of people.
“Our goal is to ascertain the facts. The visit, conducted while victims indicated the places [where the acts of violence were committed] will allow us to have an approximate idea about the distribution of the space,” he said.
Supported by more evidence about how the military facilities were used for illegal purposes, Dallari believes that administrative proceedings may be opened by the Armed Forces in an attempt to divest those involved of their rights as pensioners. “The military facilities were not built for this,” Dallari stressed.
During the operation, the once political detainees showed they could remember the rooms where the inmates were kept. Activist Ana Mirando pointed out, “It’s been changed; new things were built, but some places we can very easily recognize, like the purple room, the spot where the refrigerator stood – where the temperature was felt to oscillate in the extreme – , the place where they laid an alligator down onto my bare body, the place of the mock shooting squad executions, and the infirmary where doctor Amílcar Lobo saw us before sending us back to the torture sessions.”
Lobo was turned in in the 80’s and was deprived of his medical license. He is no longer alive.
A member of the Truth Commission of the State of Rio de Janeiro, former political prisoner Álvaro Caldas, who was at the place at other occasions, said that the visit, with the activists walking in through the front door, represents a watershed.
“I’m returning to the place of my torture – the pau de arara [a wooden stick to which victims were tied and forced to hang from while tortured] – with no hurries, taking my time, while experts investigate. I’ve accomplished a historic mission in behalf of the country,” he said.
Álvaro Caldas went on to mention that testimonies and documents are proof that deputy Rubens Paiva and Mário Alves – the founder of the Brazilian Revolutionary Communist Party – died in the facility, during the military rule.
In June, the military institutions affirmed to the National Truth Commission that during the dictatorship period the facilities were not used for purposes other than their original ones.
The Commission is expected to issue their final report by the end of 2014.