Portugal moves against abuse with OPCAT ratification

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Portugal sent a clear signal to the international community earlier this week of its intent to tackle abuse in closed institutions by formally ratifying the OPCAT. In doing so on 15 January 2013, it became the 66th State Party to the instrument.  

The ratification of the OPCAT and its effective implementation are particularly welcome in the light of past worrying allegations of abuse, particularly those committed by Portuguese police officers. In the report of its 2008 visit to the country the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) stated that it heard “numerous allegations of ill-treatment by law enforcement officials” including “slaps, punches and blows with various objects such as batons and telephone books”. The Committee also expressed concern about the material conditions of detention in different types of facilities. The CPT returned to Portugal in February 2012, but its findings have not yet been made public.

The official ratification of the OPCAT at the UN level follows swiftly on the heels of the ratification of the instrument domestically through Presidential Decree 167/2012 on 13 December 2012. The APT wrote to Portuguese Foreign Minister Paulo Portas on 11 January 2013 congratulating his government on this move and extending an offer of assistance to help put in place the future National Preventive Mechanism.