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Brazilian Commission Urges Prosecution of Dictatorship Crimes

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff receives the report from Pedro Dallari, a member of the truth commission, in Brasilia, Dec. 10, 2014.

A truth commission investigating humans rights abuses committed by Brazil's 1964-85 military dictatorship called Wednesday for the overturning of a 1979 amnesty law so that those responsible can be prosecuted.

The long-awaited report identified 377 people as responsible for what it called crimes against humanity, including torture, killings and forced disappearances of activists and ordinary Brazilians who were believed to oppose the regime.

The commission was signed into law in 2011 by President Dilma Rousseff, herself a former Marxist guerrilla who was tortured at the hands of the military in the early 1970s, to shed light on a dark chapter in Brazilian history in an attempt to promote national reconciliation.

The commission's report increased the number of people killed or disappeared during the dictatorship to 434 from a previous official estimate of 362. It also shed light on cases in which private companies helped the military identify leftist activists who opposed the right-wing regime.

An emotional Rousseff broke into tears as she received the commission's report. But she also appeared to rebuff the commission's calls for prosecutions, reiterating her stance that Brazil's hard-won democratic stability matters more than her personal beliefs or past.

"The new generations deserved to know the truth," she said."But the truth shouldn't be confused with seeking revenge. It shouldn't be a motive for hate or settling scores."

Her stance has disappointed some activists who want to see Brazil's Cold War-era soldiers and those who aided them face prosecution for rights abuses, as has happened in Argentina and Chile.

Brazil's Supreme Court blocked an effort to modify the amnesty law in 2010. The modification would have allowed prosecution of those directly responsible for the military dictatorship's crimes.