The Commission on Human Rights and Minorities of the Lower House of Congress unanimously approved this Wednesday (November 5) Legislative Bill 7764/2014 that bans abusive searches from being performed in Brazilian prisons.
The bill will now proceed to the Public Security Commission and then to the Constitution and Justice Commission before being signed into law by the president.
“Now more than ever, public pressure is important for the bill to be approved in the next commissions, mainly in the Security Commission, so it can land on the president’s desk before the end of the year,” said Vivian Calderoni, a lawyer for the Justice Program at Conectas.
When casting her vote, Congresswoman Erika Kokay stressed that the abusive searches are “medieval instruments of human rights violations” and that “it is necessary to humanize the searches so people are treated with dignity”.
Nearly six months ago, the Criminal Justice Network, of which Conectas is part, launched a major national campaign directed at the president of the Senate, Renan Calheiros, calling for the approval of the bill in the upper house. The then Senate Bill 480, drafted by Senator Ana Rita Esgário, was approved unanimously in early June.
Banned in states
São Paulo, the state with the largest prison population in Brazil (190,000), banned the procedure on August 13, 2014, when state law 15,552 was passed. However, the law is still not being applied. Other states, such as Minas Gerais and Rio de Janeiro, and cities like Manaus and Porto Alegre, have also applied total or partial bans on abusive searches.
According to data gathered by the Criminal Justice Network, based on official documents from the São Paulo Prison Administration Department, only 3 in every 10,000 of these searches result in the seizure of prohibited items. Over the entire period studied by the Network, not a single weapon was found during the procedure.
Opinion of the UN
The procedure is considered “mistreatment” by the United Nations and, depending on the circumstances, may constitute torture. Although it is already expressly banned in many countries and the State of Argentina was condemned by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the OAS (Organization of American States) in 1996 for this very reason, Brazil continues to perform these searches.
As a result, thousands of mothers, daughters, sisters and wives of prisoners are forced to strip naked, squat three times over a mirror, contract their muscles and open their anus and vagina with their fingers so employees of the State can perform the search. Infants, elderly women and women with reduced mobility are all submitted indiscriminately to the same procedure, often while receiving insults and threats.