At the peak of one of the most serious crises ever faced by its prison system, with reports of more than 60 killings in just one prison complex, Brazil has cancelled the meeting of UN experts that was scheduled to debate, in Brasília from January 28-31, the review of the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners – a document prepared in 1956 to ensure respect for the dignity of prisoners and to guarantee them healthcare and the right to a defense. Delegations from 60 countries were due to attend, according to the federal government.
The decision was met with condemnation by organizations that were due to participate in the event. In a letter addressed to President Dilma Rousseff, the Office of the Chief of Staff, the Ministry of Justice, the Special Secretariat for Human Rights, the Ministry of Foreign Relations and the National Justice Council, Conectas and the Pastoral Carcerária prisoner outreach program asserted that Brazil had lost a unique opportunity to discuss, in the presence of international experts, the problems of its prison policy.
“Just a week before the start of the event, Brazil informed that the meeting would be delayed, without even setting a new date, demonstrating a disregard for the international community and national civil society concerning such an urgent issue.”
Conectas and Pastoral Carcerária also emphasized that the lack of predictability in the organization of events of this size undermines the participation of civil society. “We have witnessed this kind of attitude by this government on a number of occasions and we interpret these actions as weakening and neglecting dialogue channels that have been arduously strengthened over the past decades,” reads the letter.
The official reason for the cancellation is that unforeseen internal circumstances are demanding the attention of the authorities that would participate in the event.
Read here the document in full.
In early February, the organizations received an official response to the letter of condemnation. In the document, the general coordinator for Combating International Crime, Márcia Loureiro, reaffirmed that the event had been cancelled due to the unavailability of the Brazilian authorities and guaranteed that the government is in contact with the UN to schedule a new date. See here the response in full.
The process of reviewing the Standard Minimum Rules began in April 2012. Since then, the Intergovernmental Group of Experts has already met on two occasions: in Vienna, Austria; and in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Conectas was present at both meetings.
In October 2013, Conectas and Cels (Center for Legal and Social Studies) of Argentina submitted a 49-page document to the experts with contributions for the review process.