Six months after being signed by President Dilma Rousseff, the law that creates the National Mechanism to Combat and Prevent Torture has yet to be put into effect. Human rights organizations that participated actively in the campaign to approve the law are now asking for details on the process of selecting the members of the committee that will oversee the new body. The public notice that clarifies these details is being prepared by the Office of Human Rights far from the scrutiny of civil society, despite the federal government’s promise of dialogue and transparency.
The National Mechanism corresponds to a commitment assumed by Brazil in the UN in 2007 and could prevent crises like the one that erupted recently in the Pedrinhas prison complex, in the state of Maranhão. The body, when created, will be responsible for visiting prison facilities, requesting investigations, making partnerships, preparing reports, compiling data and recommending policies.
In a public statement, the Criminal Justice Network, formed by Conectas, the Sou da Paz Institute, Justiça Global, ITTC, Pastoral Carcerária, IDDH, ARP and the Center for the Study of Violence of the University of São Paulo, called for the selection to be representative and transparent.
“According to the terms of the law, the Committee will be formed by representatives of the federal government and civil society,” reads the statement. “We hope that the notice clearly stipulates the selection criteria for both classes of members.” The network also asked that organizations with fewer resources not face obstacles to participate in the process and that the election of the 12 committee members be made by simple majority vote.
Read here the statement in full.
The law in practice
The National System to Combat and Prevent Torture, provided for in Law 12,847, links and adapts three existing bodies (the National Council on Criminal and Prison Policy and the National Prison Department, both linked to the Ministry of Justice, and the National Committee to Combat and Prevent Torture, linked to the Office of Human Rights) and creates one new body: the National Mechanism to Combat and Prevent Torture.
The 11 members of the Mechanism, who will be elected by the 23 members of the Committee and must have a higher education degree and experience in the area, will serve a 3-year mandate and receive payment. Their agenda will be independent and the members will have free and unrestricted access to all detention facilities.