Local efforts to prevent torture in Brazil

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Brazil ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) in January 2007. The establishment of the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) is still pending but a bill of law, currently under review by the House of Representatives, will establish a national system for the prevention of torture and other ill-treatment. In the meantime, several Brazilian states have made progress over the past years on establishing their own visiting bodies in accordance with the OPCAT.

The national system will be comprised by the NPM, a new body of eleven experts at the federal level designated by an inter-institutional committee, and local preventive mechanisms designated at the level of the states of Brazil. These bodies will function in a coordinated and articulated manner and receive technical support from the National Human Rights Secretariat of Brazil.

Last week, the Local Preventive Mechanism (LPM) of Rio de Janeiro, the only functioning LPM in the country, presented its first annual report. The report is based on the analysis and findings from more than  50 visits to different places of deprivation of liberty, including psychiatric institutions, drug rehabilitation treatment centers, penitentiaries and detention centers for minors in conflict with the law.

Three other states have enacted specific legislation creating a LPM:  Alagoas, Paraíba and, most recently, Pernambuco. The states of Minas Gerais, Sao Paulo and Rondonia have started discussions among public authorities and civil society organisations on how to implement the OPCAT and have elaborated drafts of bill of law which are currently under debate.

First national meeting on state level bodies

In view of the progresses made around the country, the APT organized last week the first national meeting to promote the establishment of fully compliant LPMs at state level, inviting actors from ten different states working on torture prevention. The main objectives of the meeting were to get to know how the local processes towards the establishment of preventive visiting mechanisms are evolving and to identify challenges and obstacles that impair its effectiveness and strategies to overcome them.

There are still many obstacles which delay or obstruct the implementation of the legislation and establishment of local preventive mechanisms. In many cases there is a lack of political will. There is also a lack of guidelines on how to comply with the complex requirements of the OPCAT, such as independence, autonomy and coordination with other existing bodies. The meeting concluded that there is a need to improve the technical capacity of local actors and to strengthen their advocacy strategies. Participants also recognised the need to foster future debates at national level and to build a network of actors engaged in the establishing monitoring mechanisms at the local level. A useful tool would be a set of national principles and guidelines to advise actors from different states on how to implement OPCAT properly and effectively, taking into account the political, legal and social realities of Brazil. Further discussion on such guidelines is likely to be held at a follow up meeting in 2013.