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Brazil Urged To Disclose Secret Files

Brazil's Human Rights Secretariat urged the government to disclose secret documents that could help locate the remains of leftist guerrillas who disappeared or were killed in the 1970s during the country's military dictatorship.

A special commission created to find the remains of militants who were part of a short-lived guerrilla movement in the Amazon jungle recommended in a 200-page report that "the president of the republic decree the declassification of all documents pertaining to the period in question."

The commission, which is coordinated by the human rights secretariat, said Wednesday that the armed forces should be given 180 days to produce all the documents "or present proof that they were destroyed."

About 70 opponents of the 1964-1985 military regime joined in a guerrilla movement in Araguaia — where the northern states of Para, Tocantins and Maranhao converge in the Amazon — and were defeated by some 10,000 army troops in 1972. All the guerrillas were killed, captured or "disappeared," a common euphemism for political opponents who died under torture.

In 2002, then-President Fernando Henrique Cardoso — a leftist who fled into political exile during the dictatorship — signed a decree to keep military intelligence files classified for 50 years. The next year, the defense ministry claimed the army had destroyed documents relating to the insurgency against the military dictatorship.

Months later a photo showing a naked man in a prison cell was leaked to the press. Many believed the man was Vladimir Herzog, a political prisoner killed in 1975, and the photo appeared to be from the same files that the government said had been destroyed.

The army initially denied the photo came from its archives but later acknowledged that the files still existed.

Wednesday's report also recommended that active or retired military personnel be questioned in an effort to obtain information on the "location of the remains of the disappeared, since information gathered for this purpose by the armed forces has proven to be insufficient."

Torture Never Again, a nationwide group dedicated to documenting dictatorship-era abuses said the report was a step in the right direction, but did not go far enough.

"It will only partially heal the wounds of the past," said Elizabeth Silveira da Silva, president of the group's Rio de Janeiro chapter. "We will only be able to put Brazil's dark past behind us when those guilty of human rights violations are brought to justice."

Those guilty of human rights abuses are protected by a sweeping 1979 amnesty that exempts both leftist guerrillas and the military from criminal prosecution for political crimes committed during the regime.

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