During the military dictatorship which ruled Brazil from 1964 to 1985, a number of people who opposed the regime disappeared. They are known as the “politically missing” and a commission has been set up to deal with paying their families indemnity. Known as the Special Comission for the Politically Missing and Dead, it is presently examining 13 cases.
Many of these cases are based on a new law which went into
effect in June of this year which recognizes state culpability in forced
suicides, suicides caused by psychological trauma resulting from torture and
deaths that occurred during public demonstrations against the government between
September 1961 and October 1988.
Prior to this law the government paid
indemnity only in cases of deaths which occurred while in state custody.
On August 14, 2003, the federal government reinstalled the
Commission on Dead and Missing Political Activitists, linked to the Special
Secretariat for Human Rights, for the purpose of indemnifying the relatives of
victims of the military regime.
Created in 1995, the commission has already conceded
indemnities to 280 family members, but many were excluded as a result of flaws
in criteria and information. In general, the amount of the indemnity varies
between 100,000 reais (US$ 33,000) and 150,000 reais (US$50,000).
During the period between 1964 and 1985, the military dictatorship that
took power in Brazil through a coup caused the death or disappearance of
approximately 480 people, according to investigations conducted by human rights
Before the recent change Brazilian law only
benefitted relatives of political activitists who were killed in security
facilities, while they were imprisoned. 102 cases rejected by the
commission, some of them because of this type of restriction, will be
Another new feature is the creation of a DNA bank, which
will store genetic information on the victims’ relatives. This information will
be cross-checked against the skeletal remains that have been discovered.
The resuscitation of the Commission coincided with a judicial decision
that revived the discussion over victims of the military regime. On July 22 of
last year, Federal Judge Solange Salgado, from Brasília, ordered the breaking of
official secrecy on all military operations in the campaign against the Araguaia
The Araguaia movement was organized in 1966 by the
PC do B (Partido Comunista do Brasil””Communist Party of Brazil) on the borders
between Tocantins, Pará, and Maranhão, a region known as Bico do
Papagaio (Parrot’s Beak).
The guerrilla members opposed the military regime and wanted to
establish an independent state in the region. The movement was crushed by the
Armed Forces in 1974.