UN report that was kept secret by the government is released thanks to new Freedom of Information Law
The Brazilian government published yesterday (June 6) – after four months of pressure from human rights NGOs – the UN report
that reveals that “the prohibition of torture is widely ignored” in Brazil. The revelation was made by members of the United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) after a series of visits to detention facilities across the country in September 2011.
The document recognizes that the Brazilian legal framework on torture is adequate, but not enforced. “The SPT is concerned by the gap between the law and its application in practice, since most of the rights and guarantees provided for in the national legislation are widely ignored,” claims the report (paragraph 22).
When it ratified the Protocol to the Convention against Torture in 2005, Brazil agreed to create a National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) for torture. A bill to create such a mechanism was finally drafted last year by the Executive and is currently pending in the National Congress. In its report, the SPT was emphatic about the need to make important changes to this bill in order to guarantee an open, transparent and inclusive process – particularly in relation to civil society – for the selection and appointment of NPM members (paragraph 17).
During its visit, the SPT heard consistent allegations of torture and gratuitous violence, as a form of punishment, to extract confessions and also as a means of extortion committed mainly by the civil and military police. “The allegations included threats, kicks and punches to the head and body, and blows with truncheons. Such beatings took place in police custody, but also on the street, inside private homes, or in secluded outdoor areas, at the moment of arrest” (paragraph 79).
The subcommittee also noticed the presence of organized criminal groups in nearly all the prisons it visited (paragraph 92). The report reminds Brazil that prisons must be run by wardens, not by inmates. The SPT also points out that “the practice (…) of forcing new prisoners who have never belonged to any gang to choose one upon entry into the system is cruel and causes the size of gangs to swell” (paragraph 93).
The SPT asserted that Brazil needs to issue a clear message of “zero tolerance” on torture. “The State party should issue a strong condemnation, at the highest level of authority, declaring that torture will not be tolerated under any circumstances. This message of “zero tolerance” on torture and ill-treatment should be delivered at regular intervals to all security forces and custodial staff” (paragraph 53). The Brazilian government should widely publicize the recommendations and respond to the SPT by August of this year.
Conectas, Justiça Global and Pastoral Carcerária have been calling for transparency since March (UN report on torture in Brazil ought to be published, March 6, 2012).