The Rio de Janeiro state legislature overturned on Wednesday, May 20, Governor Luiz Fernando Pezão’s veto of Bill 77/2015, drafted by state legislators Jorge Picciani, Marcelo Freixo and André Ceciliano. The legislation bans, in all the state’s prisons, procedures such as undressing, squatting over a mirror and anal and vaginal inspections of relatives of prisoners on visitation days. In the same vote, the legislators also overturned another veto, of Bill 76/2015, which bans abusive searches in youth detention centers in the state. Pezão has until this Friday, May 22, to sign the bill into law. After this deadline, it may be signed by the legislature itself.
The comfortable victory – only two opposing votes were cast – was celebrated by human rights organizations. In a letter sent to the house before the vote, the Criminal Justice Network, of which Conectas is part, called on the legislators to respect the international commitments assumed by Brazil on this matter.
“With this decision, the house has reasserted the importance of the legislature in the protection of human rights,” said Vivian Calderoni, a lawyer for the Justice program at Conectas. “It is now necessary to enforce the law and ensure respect for prisoners’ relatives. Cases such as São Paulo demonstrate that a legal ban is only the first step towards a definitive end to this humiliation,” she added.
Abusive searches have been banned in São Paulo prisons since August 2014, but the government continues to disregard its own rule on the grounds that it is assessing the costs of its implementation.
To avoid this situation from being repeated in Rio de Janeiro, the state legislators will deliver a check in the amount of R$19 million on May 21 to Colonel Erir Robeiro, the state prison administration secretary. The money is to be used to purchase 33 body scanners.
“This is not a casual expense, but a guarantee of constitutional and international rights. The end of a violation so serious that it cannot be postponed by the false debate on funding availability,” said Calderoni.
The gradual banning of abusive searches in Brazilian states has provided new momentum for Bill 7764/2014 that eliminates the procedure across the country. The bill has already been unanimously approved in the Senate and in the Human Rights Commission of the Lower House. It is now waiting to be voted in the Public Security Commission and the Constitution and Justice Commission.
Map of the abusive search
This map was produced by Conectas based on information collected from partners, the press, relatives of prisoners and its own inspections of the prison system. It contains 24 laws, bills, decrees, court decisions and other rules that address the issue across Brazil.