Waiting for a Meaningful State Apology : Has Brazil Apologized for Authoritarian Repression?

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This article discusses whether the Brazilian State's 1995 official apology for its systematic human rights violations during the military dictatorship (1964–1985) qualifies as a “meaningful” state apology. A meaningful state apology—an act that publicly recognizes the state's wrongdoings and expresses regret—changes the social relations between the state and groups of victims and introduces new human rights values. However, numerous post-1995 public statements (law decrees, legal appeals, Supreme Court verdicts, and official statements) effectively deny the Brazilian State's responsibility for human rights crimes. This article asks: Who wants an apology, and why? Who are the winners and losers in this contest, and why? In Brazil, it concludes, a comprehensive social and normative change within all state institutions has yet to occur. Moving beyond the criterion of the apologizer's sincerity, empirical evidence from Brazil contributes to a theory of state apologies by adding a new criterion: A state apology is meaningful if it is authoritative and supported, rather than undermined, by other sectors of the state apparatus. The final report of the Brazilian Truth Commission, which is due in 2014, presents a golden opportunity to reissue a meaningful apology, endorsed by all state institutions.

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ISO 690SCHNEIDER, Nina, 2014. Waiting for a Meaningful State Apology : Has Brazil Apologized for Authoritarian Repression?. In: Journal of Human Rights. 2014, 13(1), pp. 69-84. ISSN 1475-4835. eISSN 1475-4843. Available under: doi: 10.1080/14754835.2013.824275
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@article{Schneider2014Waiti-30485,
  year={2014},
  doi={10.1080/14754835.2013.824275},
  title={Waiting for a Meaningful State Apology : Has Brazil Apologized for Authoritarian Repression?},
  number={1},
  volume={13},
  issn={1475-4835},
  journal={Journal of Human Rights},
  pages={69--84},
  author={Schneider, Nina}
}
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