Inter-American Court of Human Rights holds public hearing on violations in Brazilian prisons and recalls the´super case´in the court
Updates on four cases that were combined in 2017 for a joint hearing
A prisoner in the Pedrinhas Prison Complex shows burn marks on his back. According to the detainee, the injury was caused by hot water thrown by a police officer at the time he was arrested. São Luís (MA) – Brazil.
On Wednesday (2), the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, linked to the Organisation of American States (OAS) will hold a public hearing of the ´super case´ concerning human rights violations in Brazilian prisons.
With live transmission starting at 11am (Brasília time), the hearing is another chapter in an unprecedented resolution by the Court which, in 2017, combined four cases that had reached the court via precautionary measures: Curado Complex, in Pernambuco; Pedrinhas Complex, in Maranhão; Plácido de Sá Carvalho Penal Institution, in Rio de Janeiro and The Correctional Detention Unit in Espírito Santo, which is for juvenile offenders.
In February 2017, judges pointed to signs that conditions at these locations “did not only make minimum standards unfeasible”, these being international ones for the treatment of prisoners, “but could also lead to cruel, inhumane and degrading sentences, in violation of the American Convention on Human Rights.” The document summoned Brazil to respond to fifty-two questions about the prison system, with emphasis on episodes contained in the ´super case´ and called on the country to implement concrete measures in eleven areas to avoid human rights violations in prisons.
In the session, Brazil presented generic information that failed to refute the Court´s suspicions that there were “signs of a possible generalisation of a structural problem on a national scale in the penitentiary system.” After the Brazilian response, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights judge, Eugenio Raúl Zaffaroni called the Brazilian policy of mass incarceration “a device for producing arrest warrants.”
One of the most emblematic cases is that of the Pedrinhas Complex, in Maranhão. In 2016, the report, Violação Continuada: dois anos da crise em Pedrinhas (Continuing Violations: two years of crisis in Pedrinhas), put together by Conectas, the Maranhão Human Rights Society, the Brazilian Bar Association (OAB) of Maranhão and Global Justice, said that the Pedrinhas prison units were becoming unsafe and overcrowded.
From January 2013 to January 2014, 62 people died in Pedrinhas, 22 of whom, some decapitated, were recorded during a series of riots that started in October 2013. In the same year, the Maranhão Human Rights Society and the Maranhão Bar Association took the case to the IACHR (Inter-American Commission on Human Rights). In November 2014, following a further five deaths in prison units and the imprisonment of one of the directors for involvement in corruption, the case was transferred to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, that issued measures for Brazil to guarantee the lives and physical and mental protection of inmates and prison officers.