José de Jesus Filho, Brazil
On 2 August 2013, nearly seven years after Brazil ratified the OPCAT, President Roussef signed the law creating the National System to Prevent and Combat Torture. This system will be composed of a committee and a mechanism at the national level and foresees the establishment of local preventive mechanisms in every Brazilian state.
For José de Jesus Filho this is a significant development. As a lawyer, working with the Prison Pastoral Care (Pastoral Carceraria) since 1995, he has visited dozens of places of detention:
“Although Brazil already possesses institutions which partly monitor conditions of detention, the new mechanisms will, for the first time, have a specific mandate dedicated exclusively to monitoring all types of places of deprivation of liberty in the whole country.”
A long-term APT partner, José joined our Board in 2012. Since the OPCAT ratification in 2007, he has contributed to the drafting of the legislation creating the National System, with the constant support of the APT. According to him, the APT succeeded in putting the OPCAT on the political agenda of Brazilian states, becoming “the reference organisation on prevention of torture in Brazil”.
José is confident that, despite the challenges, the National System will start functioning soon. Now, he says, the mechanism needs members who are experts in the field of torture prevention and needs to be properly staffed and funded. With a prison population of over half a million detainees, the new mechanism has a titanic task ahead. But José remains optimistic about the impact that the future system will have on the lives of detainees:
“We are witnessing a change in Brazil. By creating this system, the State sends a clear message that torture is never acceptable. Recent surveys have also shown that an increasing part of the population rejects the use of torture.”