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Torture prevention: UN human rights experts urge Brazil to abide by its international legal obligations

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GENEVA (5 February 2019) — United Nations human rights experts1 are deeply concerned over the recent veto by the Governor of São Paulo of law N° 1257, which would have established an anti-torture mechanism in the State.

Brazil has an international legal obligation to establish a system of National Prevention Mechanisms for tackling torture and ill-treatment because the country ratified in 2007 the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT).

In 2015, Brazil introduced a federal law creating a National System to Prevent and Combat Torture, which relies significantly on the establishment of a network of preventive mechanisms at the State level. Such mechanisms have already been established in the States of Rio de Janeiro, Pernambuco, Roraima and the Federal District. This veto reverses that positive trend.  

“We hope that Brazil will be able to continue to abide by its international obligations, reverse this decision and remain committed to the fight against torture,” said Sir Malcolm Evans, the Chairperson of the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture. “We welcome the declaration made last week by the Federal Prosecutor’s Office for Citizens Rights in rejecting this veto and inviting the State to uphold its obligations under the OPCAT.”

The Subcommittee has visited Brazil in 2011 and 2015, as have other UN mechanisms including the Special Rapporteur on Torture who visited in 2000. During these visits, the experts have found that Brazil must take steps to prevent torture and ill-treatment, including by the establishment of National Preventive mechanisms. In addition, Brazil has accepted recommendations under the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review to establish independent Federal and State level Mechanisms for the prevention of torture.

The establishment of independent torture prevention mechanisms is one of the most effective means of protecting those in detention throughout Brazil from ill-treatment, and it is a way towards guaranteeing them their right to a fair trial and the rule of law in the country. Brazil’s federal government is under an international legal obligation to ensure that this happens.

The experts urge the Legislative Assembly of the State of São Paulo to reverse this veto, as it is entitled to do under the provisions of the State Constitution.

1. Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture, endorsed by the Special Rapporteur on Torture, and Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

ENDS

Background

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 88 countries. The Committee 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 SPT has a mandate to undertake visits to States parties, during the course of which it may visit any place where persons may be deprived of their liberty, as well as to advise and assist States parties in the establishment of their NPMs. Learn more with our videos on the Treaty Body system and on the Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture!

For media inquiries about the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture, please contact Ms. Julia Grønnevet at +41 (0) 22 917 9310/jgronnevet@ohchr.org.

For more information about the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture, please contact Mr. Joao Nataf at +41 (0) 79 444 5172 and + 41 (0) 22 917 9102 / jnataf@ohchr.org

Mr. Nils Melzer (Switzerland) was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council as the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in November 2016. Mr. Melzer has previously worked for the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs and is currently the Human Rights Chair of the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights and Professor of International Law at the University of Glasgow.

For inquiries and media requests, please contact Ms. Krystel Abi Habib (+41 79 444 51 72 / kabihabib@ohchr.org

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention comprises five independent experts from around the world: Mr. Seong-Phil Hong (Republic of Korea) Chair-Rapporteur; Ms Leigh Toomey (Australia), Vice-Chair on Follow-Up; Ms Elina Steinerte (Latvia), Vice-Chair on Communications; Mr. José Antonio Guevara Bermúdez (Mexico); and Mr. Sètondji Roland Adjovi (Benin).

The Special Rapporteurs and the Working Group are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.

Check the Database of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

For more information and media requests, please contact Ms. Lucie Viersma (+41 22 928-9380/ lviersma@ohchr.org) or Ms. Margarita Nechaeva (+41 22 928 9462/ mnechaeva@ohchr.org) or write to wgad@ohchr.org

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