Brazil lived under military rule from 1964 to 1985, one of the longest continuous military dictatorships in Latin America. In this period, over 4,000 people are estimated to have been killed, tortured and disappeared.

The country experienced a gradual transition to democracy managed by the military, with presidential elections by popular vote held in 1989.

The military regime promulgated a blanket amnesty law in 1979, which has not been challenged by successive civilian governments. However, in 1995 and 2001 commissions of inquiry were appointed to set up reparation programmes for victims of human rights abuses during the military regime. In May 2012, a National Truth Commission was also set up with a mandate to investigate human rights crimes committed between 1945 and 1988.

Brazil is presently a stable democracy, though fragilities persist including high social inequalities, a lack of transparency in governance, and an uneven record in protecting civil and political rights.