The president is a former union leader who was arrested and jailed in the 1980s by military rulers for leading an illegal labour strike.
He warned Brazilians not to expect prosecution of members of the military government as they are protected by a 1979 amnesty.
He also did not promise to open the era’s secret military archives, which families of victims believe could reveal the location of the remains of 140 “disappeared” opponents of the government, according to the National Human Rights Secretariat.
“[I want] to bury my son, to know what happened to him”
Elzita Santa Cruz, mother of victim
The government’s 500-page book, “The Right to Memory and the Truth,” took 11 years to prepare and was released on the 28th anniversary of the 1979 Amnesty Law, which pardoned all Brazilians – civilian and military – for alleged crimes committed under army rule.
The government has since paid compensation to more than 300 families.
The cases in the book were all previously known, and the book does not represent any form of “reprisal” against the armed forces, said Paulo Vannuchi, head of the National Secretariat of Human Rights.
Nelson Jobim, Brazil’s defence minister, said Brazil’s armed forces accepted the book as “absolutely natural” – although no military officers attended the release ceremony.
Families of victims of the military government said they were still looking for answers.
“I’m already old, [and] I think I might not have the strength to see this battle to the end,” said Elzita Santa Cruz, 94, whose son Fernando Santa Cruz is listed among the disappeared.
“I have faith in your courage, your dignity, so you will give us an answer,” she told Silva at the ceremony.
“[I want] to bury my son, to know what happened to him.”