Custody hearings by video conference fail to combat torture

In a complaint at the UN, organizations cite setback in public policies and mechanisms to combat and prevent mistreatment in Brazil

Brazil was the target of a complaint in the UN on the morning of Tuesday, March 9, during the 46th Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. Organizations raised concerns over pre-trial custody hearings being held by video conference, which have been permitted since November 2020 following a decision by the National Justice Council (CNJ).

“Custody hearings, which since 2015 have been playing an important role in combating torture, are being replaced in some states in the country by a video call made from inside the police station or detention center without the presence of the defense,” they said.

The statement made by Conectas, in partnership with the international Association for the Prevention of Torture and the local organizations Criminal Justice Network and National Decarceration Agenda, occurred during the interactive dialogue with the UN rapporteur on torture.

In their statement, the organizations also drew attention to the dismantling of the mechanisms to combat and prevent torture and mistreatment in Brazil.

“The federal government has carried out a systematic attack on the National System to Combat and Prevent Torture, through efforts to dismantle the working capacity of the National Mechanism, undermining the work of its experts, weakening the participation of civil society in the National Committee and also appointing military personnel to government representation,” they said.

In response, the Brazilian State declared that it recognizes its obligation to effectively combat and prevent torture. “The recent decision to allow custody hearings by video conference is an exception during the Covid-19 pandemic. It is not the rule. Hearings by video conference are only permitted when it is not possible to hold them in person within 24 hours,” it said.

Complaint in the IACHR

In January, more than 60 Brazilian organizations sent an urgent appeal to the IACHR (Inter-American Commission on Human Rights) claiming that virtual hearings prevent the identification of torture against people arrested by the police.

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