Wed, Apr 11, 2012 - Page 7 News List

Rights group urges probe into missing Aborigines in Brazil

JUSTICE WAITS:A truth commission is probing the alleged disappearance of 2,000 Waimiri Atroari, but those who carried out the crackdown have amnesty

AFP, BRASILIA

A rights group has called on Brazil’s truth commission to investigate the alleged disappearance of 2,000 members of the indigenous Waimiri Atroari community during the 1964 to 1985 military dictatorship.

Egydio Schawde, a former missionary and coordinator of the House of the Urubui Culture, said on Monday that his group wanted the panel to focus on “the disappearance of many indigenous people under the dictatorship.”

He specifically referred to the “attack against and the disappearance of 2,000 Waimiri Atroari people,” which are alleged to have occurred between 1968 and 1975 in the northern states of Amazonas and Roraima.

“There are survivors of these attacks, but their testimonies were not known because of the language barrier and because there has been no interest on the part of successive governments, during the dictatorship or after, in listening to the victims,” Schawde said.

The Waimiri Atroari “too were victims” of the military because of their resistance to hydroelectric projects and roads in the state of Amazon, the activist said.

The truth commission is tasked with probing politically motivated abductions in the Cold War-era, rights abuses and murders over a time span exceeding the dictatorship — 1946 to 1988.

However, it does not lift an amnesty for those who carried out the crackdown, in effect since 1979, and upheld in 2010 by the Brazilian Supreme Court.

Last year, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights dismissed Brazil’s amnesty law as being legally invalid, saying it was incompatible with the American Convention on Human Rights.

Until 1968, the Waimiri Atroari numbered 3,000, but they dwindled to 354 in 1983 as a result of diseases and the impact of the infrastructure projects, according to Schawde.

Currently, about 1,500 indigenous people live in the states of Amazonas and Roraima, according to the National Foundation of the Indian, a governmental protection agency for indigenous peoples’ interests and their culture.

In November last year, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, a former leftist guerrilla jailed and tortured during the 1964 to 1985 dictatorship, endorsed the creation of the truth panel to probe rights abuses during the period.

Brazil has acknowledged 400 abductions and presumed deaths during the dictatorship.

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