A major setback for torture prevention in Brazil

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

The Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT) expresses its utmost concern following the adoption of a Presidential Decree that, in practice, dismantles the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) of Brazil. The move is discreet as the Decree "only" transforms the position of the 11 member Mechanism into non-renumerated posts. However, this means that the members will no longer be able to conduct visits to places of detention nor submit reports and recommendations to improve the treatment and conditions of those in detention. 

In a country where over 750,000 persons are detained, where prisons suffer endemic overcrowding, pervasive violence and inhuman and degrading detention conditions, dismantling a body that works towards changing this reality constitutes a very worrying measure. It weakens the protective framework of the physical and mental integrity of thousands of persons who find themselves in a situation of special vulnerability. 

The NPM was established in 2015 by Federal Law 12.847/2013, to implement international obligations agreed to by Brazil upon its ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT). The NPM is the central body of the National System to Prevent Torture, which encompasses a network of monitoring bodies at the local and federal level. Through unannounced visits to all places where persons are deprived of their liberty, the NPM contributes to the protection of persons deprived of their liberty, and structural changes - in law, policies and practices - to reduce the risks of torture and other ill-treatment. 

In recent years, international bodies that have visited Brazil, in particular the UN subcommittee for the Prevention of Torture and the Special Rapporteur against Torture, have highlighted the importance of the National system to prevent torture. They have also called upon the state to assure the availability of the necessary human resources and adequate funding for the effective functioning of the national preventive mechanism, as foreseen by the OPCAT. 

"The Decree constitutes a severe setback in national human rights policies," says Barbara Bernath, Secretary General of the APT. "We strongly urge the government to reconsider this decision and assure the effective functioning of the NPM." 

  • Staff Members

    Barbara Bernath
    Secretary General
    bbernath@apt.ch