UN Special Rapporteur calls on Brazil to show commitment in fight against torture

Monday, August 17, 2015

In his preliminary observations, after a 12-day official visit to Brazil, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Méndez highlighted the measures adopted to fight against torture and other ill-treatment, such as the creation of the National Mechanism and Committee to Prevent and Combat Torture. However, he stressed that more efforts are needed from the federal and state authorities to guarantee the effective implementation of the safeguards offered by these institutions.

The Rapporteur emphasized that, in order to fight torture and institutional violence, the Brazilian State must show “genuine commitment to implement measures against torture“. He recommended, for example, to immediately expand the application of custody hearings to the entire country. He also recommended to re-design them to encourage victims to speak and allow for an effective documentation of torture and ill-treatment.

The Rapporteur thoroughly reviewed the conditions of detention and expressed serious concern at the grave situation of overcrowding in penitentiaries, in some instances close to three times the actual capacity of the facility. This situation, according to the Rapporteur, generates tension and a violent atmosphere, in which physical and psychological ill-treatment are recurrent.

Furthermore, he expressed concern at the fact that the “use of pepper spray, tear gas, noise bombs and rubber bullets by the prison personnel is frequent, as are severe beatings and kicking”.

APT dialogue with the Rapporteur

The APT participated in a meeting in Sergipe with other human rights civil society organisations and expressed concern at the weaknesses in the implementation of the National System to Prevent Torture and the need to strengthen a public policy at the national level to ensure appropriate funds for the system. The reduced number of operational state mechanisms to prevent torture (in Rio de Janeiro and Pernambuco) and the lack of independent assigned budget for the National Preventive Mechanism, need to be addressed at both the federal and state levels to ensure effective prevention of torture in the country.

In addition, the APT referred to the application of the custody hearings as one of the most promising tools to prevent torture and police violence in the country. The APT therefore highlighted the need to urgently approve Senate bill no 554/2011 and create the necessary conditions to allow for indicted persons to speak about the violations they suffered without intimidation.

Sylvia Dias y Juan Mendez

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APT's Sylvia Dias and UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Méndez in Sergipe.