SAO PAULO — A former army colonel who acknowledged he tortured and killed political prisoners during Brazil’s 1964-1985 military regime was murdered in his home outside Rio de Janeiro, police told local news media today.
Citing the victim’s widow, police inspector Fabio Salvadorete told the UOL news portal that Paulo Malhaes was suffocated to death on Thursday by three men who broke into his house and stole two computers and some of the antique guns he collected.
Last month, Malhaes gave Brazil’s National Truth Commission a detailed account of how he participated in the abduction, torture and killing of political prisoners. He also said he helped in the “disappearance” of the bodies. He said at the time he did not regret his actions that he justified saying “they were guerrillas and enemies of the state.”
Malhaes was the first member of the Armed Forces to openly acknowledge that he tortured, killed and hid the bodies of political prisoners.
Created in 2012, the Truth Commission is investigating human rights abuses committed under Brazil’s military regimes. It does not have powers to prosecute anyone because of a 1979 amnesty law that released civilians and the military from liability for politically motivated crimes committed during the dictatorship. It can, however, reveal the abuses and the names of those who committed them.
Unlike Argentina, Chile and Uruguay, which also had repressive military regimes, Brazil has never punished military officials accused of human rights abuses.
The Truth Commission said in a statement it has asked the federal police to help investigate Malhaes’ murder and determine if it is linked to what he said last month.
Victoria Grabois, head of the Rio de Janeiro-based activist group Torture Never Again told reporters that as a result of Malhaes killing “other torturers may refuse to explain what took place during the military dictatorship.”