Brazil: Public defenders are key for torture prevention

Friday, June 1, 2018

On 30 May 2018, the APT wrote an open letter to the General Public Defender of the State of São Paulo to emphasise the critical role that public defenders play in preventing torture and other ill-treatment by carrying out regular, unannounced visits to places of detention. This action follows the 26 April riot at the Lucélia Penitentiary, during which public defenders were taken hostage.

Expressing its support to the public defenders who were carrying out a monitoring visit during the incident, as well as to detainees and other visitors affected by the riot, the APT stressed the importance that the Public Defence Office continue to exercise, without any restriction or limitation, its duty to periodically inspect places of deprivation of liberty. To this end, the APT offered its support to the institution to help further strengthen its detention monitoring work.

“The regular and independent monitoring of places of deprivation of liberty is essential to ensure the physical and mental integrity of persons held in custody,” said APT’s General Secretary, Mark Thomson. “In this respect, it is crucial that the state’s Public Defence Office keep strengthening its mandate as an oversight body, by supporting public defenders carrying out monitoring visits, and continuing to perform its legal duty to periodically inspect places of detention without being imposed any restrictions or limitations by the prison administration.”

As enshrined in the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture (OPCAT), which Brazil ratified in 2017, periodic visits to places of deprivation of liberty are a fundamental tool to prevent torture and other forms of ill-treatment. To be effective, it is essential that monitors be granted unrestricted access – regardless of authorisation by the prison administration – to all places of detention, as well as the possibility to speak with every detainee in private.

Read the full letter here (in Portuguese)

Staff members