HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL
Statement by the International Federation of Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (FIACAT), a non-governmental organisation with special consultative status, with a view to Item 6 of the Eighth Session of the Human Rights Council
(2-18 June 2008)
First Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Brazil
A. Issues addressed in the review of Brazil:
The International Federation of Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (FIACAT) contributed to the first Universal Periodic Review of Brazil by submitting a report on the situation concerning torture and ill treatment in that country. Following the evaluation of Brazil by the working party, certain questions remained unanswered.
1. Extra-judicial killings:
FIACAT welcomes the precise questions put to Brazil and the recommendations concerning:
the follow up on the recommendations made by Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on summary, extrajudicial or arbitrary killings, following his visit to Brazil in November 2007 (Denmark, Germany);
the measures envisaged for reducing extrajudicial killings (Russia, United Kingdom, United States, Netherlands);
the measures taken or envisaged for putting a stop to acts of violence and torture ascribable to police officers (United Kingdom, Germany, Indonesia, Ghana);
FIACAT regrets that the Brazilian delegation has not addressed those issues directly. The reponse from the government, in the form of the ‘national plan to combat torture’, is too vague.
2. Conditions of detention:
FIACAT welcomes the precise questions put to Brazil by Germany and Azerbaijan concerning the measures taken to improve conditions of detention, which the Human Rights Committee had already described as inhuman in its Concluding Observations in 2005 .
It also welcomes the recommendations by Germany, the United Kingdom, the Republic of Korea and Uruguay encouraging Brazil to make commitments to improve the conditions of detention within its borders.
The government’s only response to those recommendations has been that a law adopted in 2007 has made for a substantial reduction in the number of people held in jails and that reforms of the penal system are under way.
B. FIACAT’s concerns regarding torture and ill treatment in Brazil
1. Prisoners who have already served their sentence but remain in detention
FIACAT regrets that the issue of prisoners who have already served their sentence but remain in detention has not been addressed.
There are many cases of people having already acquitted their sentence continuing to be held in prison. That is primarily due to the lack of legal monitoring of the penal situation of those prisoners, who in most instances do not have the wherewithal to access the services of a public defender or a lawyer who can pursue their case. It also takes a long time for the Brazilian justice system to deliver decisions.
2. Treatment of prisoners
ACAT Brazil receives many complaints from prisoners who have suffered ill treatment or torture in jail. The causes of those complaints range from cramped cells in which prisoners cannot even lie down to sleep, to corporal punishment and psychological maltreatment.
Prisoners whose life has been threatened by other inmates are placed in ‘Security cells’. When they commit so-called ‘grave misdemeanours’, they are taken to the ‘punishment cell’ where, depending on the seriousness of their misdemeanour, they can remain for up to thirty days.
There are maximum security prisons for ‘high risk’ prisoners. These are governed by the Differentiated Disciplinary Regime, the Special Disciplinary Regime and the Differentiated Regime for Observation. The prisons have been built in the outer reaches of São Paulo State, or in other states, far from the capital cities.
The prison authorities allege that this is necessary because the prisoners are a danger. Inmates live in isolation within these facilities. Their total lack of contact with the outside world heightens their sense of confinement and has a profound effect on their psychosocial behaviour. Besides this, there is no evidence of any programmes being set up to facilitate their reintegration into society.
There has been no improvement in the handling of prison uprisings, as human rights activists saw only too clearly during the ‘week of terror’ in São Paulo in May 2006.
ACAT-Brazil, in partnership with other organisations, has already condemned the torture and ill treatment in various prisons such as Araraquara, Mirandópolis and Jundiaí. Action has also been taken against Brazil over the situation at the Araraquara prison facility by the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights of the Organisation of American States (OAS). (Reports on Jundiaí and Mirandópolis, 2006).
In its note verbale of 17 March 2008, presented with a view to its re election to the Human Rights Council, Brazil undertook to follow up on the recommendations made by the treaty monitoring bodies .
FIACAT therefore calls on the Brazilian Government to:
ensure that impartial investigations are conducted without delay into all allegations of violations of human rights by law enforcement officials. Those investigations should not be led by the police or under their authority, but by an independent body, and the accused should be suspended from their duties;
take urgent measures to improve the conditions of detention of all persons deprived of their liberty, be they in custody or convicted prisoners. The government should ensure that the period of police custody prior to which the person concerned can see a lawyer does not exceed two days after their arrest, meaning they can no longer be held in temporary custody in police stations. It should introduce a system of release under bail, ensure that the accused are tried as swiftly as possible and provide for alternative sanctions. The State Party should also take urgent steps to put an end to the very widespread practice of holding in continued detention prisoners who have already served their sentence;
The State Party should ensure that the constitutional safeguard of federalisation of human rights crimes becomes an efficient and practical mechanism, in order to ensure prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigations and prosecution of serious human rights violations.