Brazil answered questions, listened to recommendations and presented arguments during its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) today (May 25), in a long session held in person with more than 70 international delegations in the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council, in Geneva. Violations in the prison system, summary executions and the impact of large sporting events were some of the issues addressed.
The human rights situation of all UN member states is reviewed every four and a half years. This is the second time that Brazil has been examined by the UPR mechanism.
Camila Asano, coordinator of the Foreign Policy and Human Rights Program at Conectas, accompanied the debate in Geneva, together with representatives of other partner NGOs. Civil society contributes to this mechanism by submitting documents that add to the debate with facts, figures and arguments.
Below are the main excerpts of an interview conducted with Camila shortly after the conclusion of the hearing:
Is it possible to evaluate the UPR and Brazil’s performance?
It’s possible to say that some important issues came to the fore. For example, more than 20 foreign delegations of the 78 that interacted with Brazil in this UPR directly mentioned the serious concerns about the Brazilian prison system. Conectas plays an active role in this issue, particularly in the state of São Paulo, and we commend that fact that it was addressed.
How relevant are these questions and recommendations?
The international community showed signs that it understands that the prison situation in Brazil is serious and that it has been paying attention to this. We heard at least three very specific issues raised here today: about Brazil placing at least one public defender in every prison across the country; about the health situation of female prisoners, particularly pregnant women; and about putting into practice the torture prevention mechanism to allow independent monitoring of the Brazilian prison system.
Was this issue of police violence and the use of force addressed by the delegations that questioned Brazil?
Yes, and not only about the excessive use of force, but also about extrajudicial executions. Several delegations mentioned the issue, recommending, for example, a review of the police training process in Brazil’s police academies. One delegation even made reference to the existence of death squads in Brazil.
Another point that was expected to be given some prominence was the issue of large-scale construction work ahead of major sporting events.
Yes. Brazil was told very clearly that it is important to consider the rights and the points of view of vulnerable communities in consultations about these large construction projects and their impacts, particularly on indigenous peoples. We heard emphatic commentaries expressing concerns about the forced removals taking place ahead of the World Cup and the Olympic Games.
And how did Brazil react?
The Brazilian delegation was composed of various ministries, as well as representatives from the Legislative and the Judiciary, which we consider important for the recommendations to be implemented. The Brazilian authorities had prepared for the hearing. However, the concern with providing quick responses prevented the debate from being more interactive. Some of the answers did not directly address what was being asked. Countries adopt very defensive postures in these hearings and this makes the dialogue less constructive than it could be.
Does this conclude the process? Is it just questions and answers?
No. Now comes the difficult part, which is to implement what has been addressed here. The hard work starts now. And part of the effort should be focused on making sure that it also includes states and municipalities across Brazil. Now comes the most complicated and important part.
For more complete information on the UPR, visit the special page, by clicking here.