The APT and the Brazilian National Council of Justice unite to tackle torture during the first hours of detention

Monday, November 18, 2019

The Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT) and the Conselho Nacional de Justiça (National Council of Justice of Brazil – CNJ) recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding, agreeing to work together to implement actions designed to prevent and combat torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

The APT and the CNJ are collaborating on a series of projects aimed at guaranteeing the rights of persons under police custody in Brazil after signing an agreement. The partnership places its focus on strengthening custody hearings and training judges to take into account the needs and vulnerabilities of persons at a higher risk of suffering police abuse, such as LGBTI persons and women.

“This collaboration with the Conselho Nacional de Justiça is instrumental to enhance the impact of custody hearings as a mechanism to detect cases of torture and ill-treatment,” said Barbara Bernath, the APT’s Secretary General. Custody hearings provide a unique opportunity to identify whether torture has occurred because they take place just a few hours after the arrest. “Through this partnership we will equip judges and court officials nationwide with the knowledge of which procedures to adopt when hearing a report of torture and police abuse and also how to properly document it.”

Custody hearings also serve to verify whether safeguards in the first hours of detention, such as access to a lawyer and information on rights, have been observed. “Hence, it is important to assure that judges know which questions to ask and that detainees feel safe to report abuses. We’ll be producing manuals and technical materials designed specifically to inform judges of the best practices.” Bernath continued.

Sylvia Dias conducting a training with Brazilian judges in 2017.


Luis Geraldo Lanfredi, Coordinator of the Department of Monitoring and Supervision of the Penitentiary System (DMF/CNJ) stressed the importance of such assistance. “With the development of clearer guidelines for these situations, the judiciary will contribute to the fight against one of the most serious violations against human beings, which is torture.”

The APT and CNJ’s collaboration on custody hearings will include the technical contribution of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Since custody hearings were established in 2015, the APT has supported the Brazilian criminal justice system, and judges in particular, to conduct custody hearings appropriately through technical advice and trainings with several partners.

The video below (in Portuguese) explores the role judges can play in torture prevention.

Staff members