Today, before the 47 members of the UN Human Rights Council, in Geneva, Brazil lost another opportunity to recognize the flaws in the prison system and to present solutions.
After hearing the recommendations of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the Brazilian ambassador in Geneva, Regina Dunlop, avoided the harsh criticisms leveled against the country’s mass incarceration policies and avoided any mention of the need to take urgent steps to solve the violations verified by the group.
“In a disgraceful lack of commitment to the solutions, she disregarded the main points of the report presented by the Working Group, which are the devastating effects of the use of prison as the rule, not the exception,” said Lucia Nader, executive director of Conectas.
According to the organization, the Brazilian government wasted its five minutes of time and instead addressed tangential issues, dismissing the main conclusions of the experts. The ambassador did not answer, for example, why 41.8% of the prison population have not yet had a trial, compounding the ‘endemic overcrowding’ of the prison facilities identified by the Working Group.
Nor did she explain why the Experimental Health Unit is holding six young people from the Fundação Casa youth reform center without any legal basis and why the Law of Precautionary Measures (Law 12,403/11), which sets alternative sentences for pre-trial detainees, is not being properly applied.
Contrary to what the data tells us – that the number of people detained as a result of the Drug Law increased 320% between 2005 and 2012 – the ambassador claimed that the law has produced “significant changes in relation to drug-related crimes”.
“It is irresponsible at best to claim that the Drug Law of 2006 has solved the devastating effects of the so-called ‘war on drugs’ in the country. Currently, it is the main instrument for criminalizing poverty and incarcerating black youth from poor neighborhoods,” said Rafael Custódio, coordinator of Justice at Conectas. “The first step towards finding solutions for the prison system is to recognize the failure of this law. Today, in an embarrassing display, Brazil did exactly the opposite.”
Dunlop also criticized the excerpt from the Working Group’s report that mentions the excessive use of compulsory confinement of drug addicts. According to her, this is not a common practice in Brazil.
Her speech conflicts with the findings of the Rio de Janeiro State Mechanism to Combat and Prevent Torture, which confirmed in its 2013 report, that “previously restricted to children and adolescents, the round-ups of people living on the streets allegedly due to drug use peaked this year , with the mounting of mega-operations that also rounded up adults”. The visit of the Working Group to Brazil occurred just one month after the round-up of 90 people in the city of Rio de Janeiro.
“In this way, Brazil has demonstrated its decision to disregard dialogue with civil society and with international organizations,” added Lucia Nader. “This position is irreconcilable with the defense of human rights and needs to be urgently reviewed by the government.”
The oral statement by Conectas and the Criminal Justice Network on the topic, originally scheduled for immediately after the presentation of the report, was postponed until Friday, September 12.
Click here (English) and here (Spanish) to read the full report presented by the Working Group.
Click here to read the full speech given by Brazil.
Click here to read the oral statement to be given on Friday by Conectas and the Criminal Justice Network.
Watch Brazil’s speech in full:
Watch Conectas’ oral statement in full: