Against torture in São Paulo

The creation of the State-Level Mechanism to Combat and Prevent Torture is one step closer to reality in São Paulo: the bill that creates the new body was approved this Wednesday, February 11, by the CCJR (Constitution and Justice Commission) of Alesp (São Paulo State Legislature).

The bill, drafted by the state legislator Adriano Diogo, will now go before another two legislative commissions (Defense of Rights & Finance, Budget and Planning), probably by March, before it is submitted to the governor to be signed into law.

If approved, a new body formed by independent experts will be created with free access to any detention facility in the state. Based on these inspections, its members may request investigations, conduct medical examinations, prepare reports, catalogue data and recommend public policies.

“Torture is a widespread practice that plagues the Brazilian prison system. Only with the existence of state-level mechanisms working in conjunction with the national mechanism will it be possible to curb this type of violation,” explained Rafael Custódio, coordinator of Justice at Conectas.

Overview in Brazil

The creation of the National Mechanism to Combat and Prevent Torture, in August 2013, was an important step. However, this national mechanism is still in the implementation stage and its effectiveness in combating torture depends on state-level mechanisms being set up across the country.

Although some 11 states already have legislation or executive orders in place to create mechanisms, only Rio de Janeiro currently has a functioning body, which has been active since 2012. According to Fábio Simas, a member of the Rio de Janeiro mechanism, the bill urgently needs to be passed in São Paulo, which holds 35% (nearly 200,000) of the Brazilian prison population.

“If you were to take an x-ray of the prison system, you would see that São Paulo has a prison population that is far larger than many countries and that it is marked by excessive violence by the authorities,” said Simas.

He also pointed out, as an aggravating factor, the conclusion of the report “Judging Torture: Analysis of jurisprudence in Brazil’s State Courts of Appeals (2005-2010)” – that public officials involved in torture cases are more likely to be acquitted by appeals courts than private individuals (relatives, spouses, private security guards, etc.).

The report, produced by Conectas, IBCCrim (Brazilian Criminal Sciences Institute), NEV, Pastoral Carcerária and Acat-Brasil, based on an analysis of 455 rulings from all Brazil’s State Courts of Appeals, revealed that state employees convicted by trial courts were acquitted on appeal in 19% of the cases, while the rate for private individuals was 10%.

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