Prison riot in Brazil: NPM recommendations must be taken seriously

Thursday, January 5, 2017

A prison riot in Manaus (Amazonas), Brazil, earlier this week has led to the brutal killing of 6o inmates. The National Preventive Mechanism visited this prison one year ago and warned in its report against the severe overcrowding and the self-governing of units by prisoners. The report described a situation of high tensions and pointed explicitly to the risk of riots.

The APT has today written to relevant authorities and expressed our concern about the acts of violence that caused the death of 60 prisoners in Manaus. We have also expressed our solidarity with the families of the victims, urging state authorities to provide them with adequate assistance.

Sadly, these deaths are not the result of an isolated incident, but reflect the systemic violence that ravages the Brazilian prison system. The authorities must take urgent actions to strengthen the protection of the rights of persons deprived of their liberty and to prevent future violations. We urge the State Public Prosecutor to promptly investigate the deaths and hold those responsible to account.

The Brazilian National Mechanism for the Prevention of Torture (the NPM) visited prisons in Amazonas in December 2015. In its report, the NPM highlighted the precarious conditions and tensions within the prisons, which ultimately led to the tragic events this week. The NPM issued a series of recommendations, addressed to the State government, the Court of Justice and the Public Prosecutor's Office, with concrete measures to improve conditions in the Amazon prison system. In order to prevent future human rights abuses and violence, the APT strongly encourages government authorities and relevant institutions within the criminal justice system to engage in a dialogue with the NPM on how to implement these recommendations. Another important measure to prevent abuses would be the prompt establishment of a Local Preventive Mechanism at the state level, with the mandate to carry out regular visits to places of detention.

In 2015, the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture visited prisons in several Brazilian states, including Manaus. In a statement on 4 January, the regional representative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Amerigo Incalcaterra, called on the Brazilian government to make the SPT report public: “We believe that public knowledge of the SPT report would be an important contribution to improving the prison conditions in the country".