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Brazil: Newly Enacted Laws Guarantee Access to Information, Create Truth Commission to Investigate Human Rights Violations

(Nov. 28, 2011) On November 18, 2011, the Brazilian government enacted a law (Lei No. 12.527, de 18 de Novembro de 2011) to regulate access to information as established in articles 5(XXXIII), 37(§3)(II), and 216(§2) of the Brazilian Constitution. On the same day, Brazil also adopted a law (Lei No. 12.528, de 18 de Novembro de 2011) that creates a National Truth Commission (Comissão Nacional da Verdade).

Law No. 12,527 guarantees to Brazilian citizens access to the public documents (federal, state, provincial, and municipal) of the three branches of government. According to the Law, public institutions have a duty to make basic information, including matters of jurisdiction, organizational structure, and budget execution, available on the Internet. Secrecy is only justified when necessary for protection of state security and information of a personal nature. The time period for keeping ultra-secret documents confidential will be 25 years; secret documents will be kept for 15 years, and “reserved” documents will be held for just 5 years. Government institutions are required to review the current classifications within two years of the day on which the Law enters into force, which is six months from its date of publication. (Press Release, Presidenta Dilma sanciona a lei que garante acesso às informações públicas e a lei que cria a Comissão Nacional da Verdade (Nov. 18, 2011), PLANALTO.GOV.BR.)

Law No. 12,528 determines that the National Truth Commission will investigate the serious human rights violations that occurred in Brazil between 1946 and 1988 and will have two years to produce a report with conclusions and recommendations on the crimes committed. (Id.)