GENEVA (11 February 2022) – Brazil must comply with its international obligations and reinforce its national prevention mechanisms against torture, experts from the UN torture prevention body said on conclusion to their visit to the country with the third largest prison population in the world.
“We urge Brazil to drop its decision to dismantle its national torture prevention mechanism,” said Suzanne Jabbour, who headed the three-member delegation, which visited the country in early February.
“We also call on Brazil to respect its international human rights commitments and consolidate its resources and efforts to combat torture,” she added.
Brazil has the third largest population of people deprived of liberty in the world with over 750,000 detainees and overcrowded prisons.
During their visit to the capital, Brasilia, the delegation from the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (SPT) met with the Minister for Women, Family and Human Rights, various Members of Parliament, including with the Chairpersons of the Human Rights Commissions of both chambers, the Supreme Federal Court, the Federal Prosecutor General and his Deputy in charge of the Rights of Citizens, amongst others entities.
The delegation also held meetings with the Federal National Preventive Mechanism (Mecanismo Nacional de Prevenção e Combate à Tortura – MNPCT), the country’s torture prevention watchdog, as well as with its counterparts at state level in the four states where they exist, as well as with representatives of civil society organizations linked to torture prevention.
“All the senior authorities we met with agreed that an independent and well-functioning preventive mechanism is absolutely essential, both at the federal and state level,” Jabbour said.
“Brazil’s preventive mechanisms are facing critical challenges. Despite the lack of resources and support, they are doing a remarkable job,” she added.
A decision of the Supreme Federal Court is expected in the coming weeks to decide on the legality of the 2019 Presidential Decree that seriously weakened the system. Under the controversial Decree, MNPCT’s members will no longer be remunerated and will be expected to work on a voluntary basis. In addition, the Administration unilaterally decided to severely diminish the professional and secretariat support for the mechanism.
“We will continue to engage with Brazil's prevention mechanisms and relevant authorities, institutions and civil society and support their efforts to establish a strong, functional and independent monitoring system to prevent torture in the country,” Jabbour said.
State parties to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) are obliged to establish functional and independent national preventive mechanisms. These bodies conduct regular visits to places where people are deprived of their liberty, as part of efforts to prevent torture and ill-treatment and improve detention conditions. Brazil established a national system of prevention of torture in 2013, but only four out of the 26 states have set up a preventive body.
The SPT delegation comprised Suzanne Jabbour (Lebanon), Head of the Delegation and Chairperson of the SPT; Juan Pablo Vegas (Peru), Head of the SPT Regional Team for Latin America and Rapporteur on Brazil; and Nora Sveaass (Norway), member of the SPT delegation that visited Brazil in 2015.
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The Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture monitors States parties' adherence to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, which to date has been ratified by 91 countries. The Subcommittee is made up of 25 members who are independent human rights experts drawn from around the world, who serve in their personal capacity and not as representatives of States parties. The Subcommittee has a mandate to visit States that have ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture. The Subcommittee communicates its observations and recommendations to States through confidential reports, which it encourages countries to make public.
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