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Experts of the Committee against Torture express concern about racially motivated police violence and detention conditions in dialogue with Portugal

Committee against Torture

 20 November 2019

The Committee against Torture this afternoon concluded its consideration of the seventh periodic report of Portugal on measures taken to implement the provisions of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Committee Members raised concerns about detention conditions, including the use of solitary confinement for juveniles. They also broached racially-motivated police violence. In that regard, the outcome of the Cova da Moura trial was flagged.

Committee Experts regretted that the report did not offer clear and straightforward answers to questions on measures taken to reduce the number of prisoners awaiting trial; measures taken to ensure that juveniles detained in establishments for adults were accommodated separately; measures to increase access to mental healthcare; and the use solitary confinement. Turning to the Cova da Maura Trial, they asked how the delegation accounted for what appeared to be a very easy outcome for those involved. They pointed out that the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance had also questioned the independence of the General Inspectorate for Internal Affairs and its willingness and ability to conduct investigations of allegations of ill-treatment and conduct motivated by racism, homophobia or transphobia on the part of the police. A report by this Commission mentioned several instances of racially-motivated police violence during the reporting period. The report stated that "the level of police brutality towards Afro-descendants was said to have increased in recent years". Comments and clarifications from the delegation were requested.

Members of the delegation of Portugal said measures would be taken to find alternatives to solitary confinement of juveniles, the use of which really was exceptional. On overcrowding, it should be noted that, when determining an individual's place of detention, factors such as vicinity of family members were considered, and this could lead to their being sent to a prison with a high occupation rate. The General Inspectorate of Internal Affairs and its inspectors were not linked, institutionally or otherwise, to the individuals it investigated. It would be quite challenging to give this body a fully independent status. It was, however, an interesting proposal that would be brought to the attention of the relevant ministry.

Regarding the Cova da Moura case, the delegation said that compensation had been given to all victims. One of them received 7,500 euros and the remaining five had received 10,000 euros. This was not a definitive judgement, as the decision had been appealed. But this illustrated that the police were not above the law, and that police officers were on an equal footing with other Portuguese. The Portuguese Police Service did not share the Committee's view on the use of force by police officers against the Afro descendant community. In recent years, there had not been any individuals of African descent who had died at the hands of the police. Rather, the police had built bridges with the community of people of African descent.

In his concluding remarks, Rómulo Mateus, Director-General for Reinsertion and Prison Services, recalled that, a few years ago, the Portuguese prison system had high rates of overcrowding. The judicial culture had undergone a dramatic change. The incarceration rate had been consistently dropping since 2016.

Rui Macieira, Permanent Representative of Portugal to the United Nations Office at Geneva, reiterated Portugal's commitment to human rights. Throughout the Portuguese administration, people would be involved in implementing the Committee's recommendations.

Jens Modvig, Committee Chairperson, recalled that the Committee would request that the State party submit a report on the implementation of three urgent recommendations. He thanked the delegation.

The delegation of Portugal was comprised of representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry Presidency of the Council of Ministers, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Labour, Solidarity and Social Security, the Ministry of Health, and the Permanent Mission of Portugal to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Committee will next meet in public on Thursday, 21 November at 3 p.m.  to conclude its consideration of the sixth periodic report of Latvia (CAT/C/LVA/6).

Report

The Committee has before it the seventh periodic report of Portugal (CAT/C/PRT/7).

Presentation of the Report

RUI MACIEIRA, Permanent Representative of Portugal to the United Nations Office at Geneva, noted with satisfaction the involvement and contribution of the Provedor de Justiça, Portugal's National Institution for Human Rights in accordance with the Paris Principles, and its National Preventive Mechanism according to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture. Before being finalized, the report discussed today had been debated with civil society. The same practice was followed for all other human rights reports presented by Portugal. Portugal shared the view that torture was always wrong, and that the prohibition of torture was absolute. Human dignity was of paramount importance and human rights violations should not happen, not even under the auspices of fighting terrorism threats.

RÓMULO MATEUS, Director-General for Reinsertion and Prison Services of Portugal, said that 45 years ago, a democratic regime had been re-established in Portugal. Since then, there had been a constant effort to ensure the protection of those who were most vulnerable. He gave a very recent example of Portugal's drive to create modern legislation regarding the respect for human dignity: the Statute of the Accompanied Adult. This legal framework had entered into force this year and it privileged the autonomy of the person and introduced a follow-up model replacing the former legal framework of interdiction and partial interdiction in line with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Public campaigns to raise awareness on domestic violence had been intensified. Police officers were instructed to take victim protection measures as soon as possible, never exceeding 72 hours. The National Strategy for Equality and Non-Discrimination against Women included an action plan aimed specifically at preventing and combatting violence against women and domestic violence (2018-2021).

The National Prevention Mechanism recently made a visit to a Juvenile Detention Centre, which resulted in several recommendations on the communications between the youth admitted there and their families. Accordingly, measures had been taken to allow more contact between the young people and their families via Skype, mobile phones and the internet. The Government had put an end to strip-searches, haircutting and removal of personal clothes upon entering Juvenile Detention Centres, and a recently created group of experts was conducting a thorough review of the rules governing the detention of youngsters.

The Government had put an end to weekend detention and had adopted an electronic monitoring system, which was praised worldwide. This measure alone had allowed the removal of approximately 2,000 people from the prison system, while allowing for their monitoring and surveillance 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Moreover, Portuguese law allowed imprisonment sentences not exceeding two years to be served through electronic monitoring under house arrest. According to calculations, the success rate of the National System of Electronic Monitoring stood at 98.6 per cent.

There were advanced plans to build two new prisons for around 600 inmates each, and to close eight old and obsolete prisons, including the one in Lisbon, which had been built more than 100 years ago. Regarding the six-hour detention period allowed for the sole purpose of coercive identification of people, as per amendments to the Criminal Code, they amounted to one full day to be deducted from the final sentence that may be imposed, regardless of the case in which such deprivation of freedom occurred and even if the sentence was rendered in another different case.

The World Health Organization recognized in 2018 that Portugal was an example of good practices in the prevention and treatment of tuberculosis in prison settings. Following the Government's decision, taken years ago, to decriminalize the use and possession of all illicit drugs, independent evaluations had concluded that the Portuguese decriminalization model, which inter alia provided harm reduction services, had led to a general reduction in the cases of HIV and viral hepatitis among drug users.

Portugal was one of the few countries that granted a key role by law to a non-governmental organization in the framework of the international protection procedure. By the end of 2017, the Social Integration Income mechanism had been extended to inmates, with a view to support their reintegration and return to freedom and to work.

Mr. Mateus assured the Committee of Portugal's relentless commitment to improving the implementation of the Convention and ensuring the respect and promotion of the highest standards of human rights through effective legislative, administrative, judicial, policy or other measures.

Questions by the Committee Experts

CLAUDE HELLER ROUASSANT, Co-Rapporteur for Portugal, noted that a number of initiatives had been taken to raise the profile of human rights in the country, including a conference to mark the thirtieth anniversary of the adoption of the Convention.

The absence of discriminatory motives in the national definition of torture restricted victims' access to justice and reparations. Would it not be useful to include discrimination, notably against Roma people and people of African descent, as one of the motives for torture?

Noting that the General Inspectorate was tasked with supervising forced expulsions, he requested information on measures taken to promote the filing of complaints as well as on the related protocols.

The number of deaths caused by domestic violence had doubled compared to 2018. While the State had taken measures to train officials on this matter, there were cases when light sentences had been handed down against perpetrators. There appeared to be a gap between training and practice. What measures could be taken to ensure that sentences handed down were in proportion with the gravity of the crimes and avoid leniency?

Turning to human trafficking, the Co-Rapporteur recalled that there were three groups of victims mentioned by the State party: women brought to Portugal for prostitution, people trafficked for labour purposes and children used for begging. What protection measures had been adopted in that regard?

On residency permits, the State party's comments on the Foreign Affairs and Frontier Service were extremely vague. What did the State party mean when it stated that the Service had done everything possible?  Who took decisions on residency permits and on what basis?

Over the past 15 years, the number of women who had been subjected to female genital mutilation stood at 6,576, according to a study published in 2015. Could the delegation provide information on this matter?

Turning to refugee issues, the Co-Rapporteur requested data on the number of asylum applications filed in the country since 2016, as there had been reports of an uptick. Information on the applicants' countries of origin and Portugal's participation in the European quota distribution system would also be welcome. It seemed that Portugal was 1,400 persons' short of its commitment under this programme.

Was the Istanbul Protocol applied and was there a mechanism for the systematic identification of vulnerable persons, including asylum seekers who had been subjected to torture in the past?  In that regard, it was striking that Portugal did not have any data on this matter despite having declared that the number of torture victims was insignificant. This affirmation was vague and subjective.

He broached the topic of the centres in the international zone at the borders, where the conditions were similar to those of the temporary installations. Could the delegation provide more information on detention conditions in those centres?

A non-governmental organization, Oficina par al Defensa de los Derechos, had stated that Portuguese caselaw had restricted the principle of non-refoulement. A number of cases put forward by lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans persons had been rejected. It should be reminded that in numerous countries, these persons were subjected to stigmatization, violence and judicial persecution. Could the delegation comment on this matter?

In July 2017, the Municipal Prosecution Office of Amadora had pressed charges against 18 police officers for the ill-treatment of six men of African descent. The Cova da Moura case, in that regard, was also relevant. These cases had a huge impact on public opinion. How could these unusual cases help the Government learn lessons for the future?

The State party, through the General Inspectorate of Judicial Services, had created a special procedure to deal with complaints of ill-treatment or torture in the context of the deprivation of liberty. More information on this new investigation procedure would be welcome.

It would also be useful for the delegation to comment on the role of the General Inspectorate of Internal Affairs with regard to torture; this Inspectorate's definition of ill-treatment; as well as on suggestions that it be granted complete autonomy.

The Co-Rapporteur raised concerns regarding detention conditions in the high-security Monsanto prison, where detainees were confined in cells 21 to 22 hours per day, and the Lisbon Central Prison.

Overcrowding was also a source of concern. The Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture had observed that in the Oporto Prison, the occupation rate stood at 150 per cent and up to 12 inmates were detained in a single cell - in such cells, there were less than 3 square meters per person, including the space for a table used for meals and beds. 

BAKHTIYAR TUZMUKHAMEDOV, Co-Rapporteur for Portugal, noted that the State party had referred to a recommendation – which sought to foster the deduction of the six-hour detention from sentences – that was not applicable to other law-enforcement agencies that were not subordinated to the Ministry of Home Affairs. Were there agencies that were left outside the authority of the General Inspectorate for Internal Affairs that had the power to detain individuals?  If so, who acted as their watch dog?

Clarification was needed with respect to data on victims of domestic and gender-based violence.

While addressing the prevention of torture, consideration should be given to the protection of vulnerable groups such as persons of age and persons with disabilities, whether in the context of domestic violence or beyond.

Based on the State party's replies, it seemed that training related to international instruments was offered either at basic or advanced levels of general professional education and targeted training. According to the Portuguese Ombudsman, personnel did not receive a comprehensive mandatory training on the Convention and the Committee. 

It would be appreciated if the delegation could provide details on training provided to military personnel on international law and inform the Committee of their training on the Convention in relation to international deployment and armed conflict.

Regrettably, the report did not offer clear and straightforward answers to several queries included in the List of Issues prior to reporting, notably measures taken to reduce the number of prisoners awaiting trial; measures taken to ensure that juveniles detained in establishments for adults were accommodated separately; measures to increase access to mental healthcare; and the use solitary confinement.

On this latter matter in particular, the Co-Rapporteur stressed that it had been raised by other treaty bodies, and the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture had opined in 2011 that solitary confinement be only used "in exceptional cases and as a last resort, and for the shortest possible period of time".

While the Committee acknowledged that there was no overcrowding in the Portuguese prison system as a whole, thanks to measures taken by the Government, there were still numerous overcrowded institutions.

The Portuguese Ombudsman had confirmed the Committee's concerns regarding targeted and adequate treatment of prisoners with mental health issues. The two prisons with dedicated mental health wards were understaffed. One of them had a single psychiatrist for 200 patients.

Regarding the detention of migrants, the Co-Rapporteur remarked that assessments of asylum seekers' individual situations were not conducted, and alternative options were seldom considered in practice, according to the Portuguese Refugee Council. Also concerning were the pre-removal and transit facilities at airports, which were not equipped for detention, especially that of families, prospective mothers and children.

The State party's response to a question about protective measures available to victims of torture and ill-treatment seemed to be limited to prison inmates. The State party had also admitted that there were no records of complaints. Was that because there were no violations at all and therefore no need to make and keep any records?  Or was it because complaints were not properly recorded or were swept under the rug?

Turning to the Cova da Moura Trial, the Co-Rapporteur noted that it had culminated with a prison term of 18 months to be served by one police officer, seven suspended sentences and nine acquittals. How would the delegation account for what appeared to be a very easy outcome for those involved?  He inquired about the availability of civil reparations, criminal proceedings notwithstanding. Did the definition of victims of torture entitled to redress and compensation include family members and dependents?  Did it include persons who had suffered harm in intervening to assist victims or prevent victimization?

On the General Inspectorate for Internal Affairs, a non-governmental organization had informed the Committee that its investigations did not cover the action of superiors in the prevention, investigation and sanction of alleged acts of torture committed by their subordinates. The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance had also questioned this body's independence and its willingness and ability to conduct investigations of allegations of ill-treatment and conduct motivated by racism, homophobia or transphobia on the part of the police.

Most of questions raised in the List of Issues with regard to the Roma community were dealt with exhaustively. Positive developments had been observed regarding putting an end to corporal punishment.

The Committee was aware of concerns raised by authoritative and dedicated research groups about discrepancies between international standards and Portuguese regulations on the use of firearms.

The State party had provided terse responses to questions posed by the Committee regarding investigations trigged by complaints, the Co-Rapporteur remarked, requesting additional information.

A report by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance mentioned several instances of racially-motivated police violence during the reporting period. The report stated that "the level of police brutality towards Afro-descendants was said to have increased in recent years" and that "it was often police officers with poor appraisals who were assigned to police stations covering the districts populated by Black people."  Comments and clarifications from the delegation should be in order.

The Co-Rapporteur also requested information on the State party's response to threats of terrorism.

Other Committee members raised concerns regarding the use of solitary confinement against minors for up to 30 days, racially-motivated police abuse, and suicides in prisons.

Replies by the Delegation

Delegates said that taser guns were distributed to special teams only, and all users received specific training. Whenever they were used, a report was drawn up. They were not being used in any prison establishments.

The use of bodycams was being tested by the police force. These cameras would record images and sound, and the user would not be able to delete any recordings.

There were logistic problems in the psychiatric forensic units, which reforms launched last year were seeking to address. New staff would be recruited, and new units would be opened. The general philosophy was to implement a step-down system.

At the moment, the Ministry of Health had rules on the use of constraint. An evaluation of discrepancies between its rules and the standards established by the European Committee on the Prevention of Torture would be conducted. This assessment could be used to elaborate amendment proposals to the Portuguese Mental Health Act. Discrepancies with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities would also be examined.

Responses by the Delegation

RÓMULO MATEUS, Director-General for Reinsertion and Prison Services of Portugal, recalling that some Portuguese regions were autonomous, remarked that information provided in the report referred to the entire national State.

Delegates explained that Portugal had a robust system to prevent torture and ill-treatment. Portugal had a post-dictatorship constitution; the heinous nature of torture was seared in the collective memory of the Portuguese people. The crime of torture was punishable by one to five years, and up to 16 years under certain exacerbating circumstances.

There was a standalone crime of discrimination in Portugal and the concept of discrimination in Portuguese law was vast and covered physical and psychological disabilities as well as sexual orientation and gender identity. Torture, abuse of authority and discrimination were amongst exacerbating circumstances included in the Criminal Code.

Regarding the statute of limitations, the crime of torture lapsed when 10 years had passed. The delay was 15 years for aggravated torture. However, if the crime of torture was tantamount to a crime against humanity, it would not lapse.

Turning to gender-based violence, delegates addressed the issue of Judge Joaquim Neto da Moura, who had given men who had committed acts of domestic violence against women light sentences. This judge had been subjected to disciplinary sanctions, and his case had been transferred to the civil law section.

Furthermore, the training of magistrates on the matter of domestic violence had been "beefed-up" through legislative amendments.

Regarding the Cova da Moura case, sentences that had been handed down against the perpetrators varied. Some were sanctioned with a two-month prison sentence, others with five-year suspended sentences. One of the officers had been sentenced to one and a half years in prison. Compensation had been given to all victims. One of them received 7,500 euros and the remaining five had received 10,000 euros. This was not a definitive judgement, as the decision had been appealed; one could therefore assume that payments had yet to be made. This illustrated that the police were not above the law, and that police officers were on an equal footing with other Portuguese.

The legal definition of detention encompassed the identification process. Detainees were informed, through a written document that they had to sign, that they had the right to contact a lawyer. The pretrial detention length was deducted from sentences that were handed down subsequently.

Inspections were carried out without prior notice in places of detentions and when illegal detentions were observed, the prosecutor's office was immediately apprised of the matter.

The Constitution clearly stated that evidence obtained through torture was null and void. In that regard, it should be reminded that European norms on human rights were directly applicable in the country and need not be repeated in national legal texts. The use of torture was not deemed a mere procedural irregularity. There was a significant body of jurisprudence illustrating the non-admissibility of evidence extracted through torture.

Regarding compensation, the law stipulated that it was to be obtained through civil proceedings. Failing that, the court could provide reparations. The State ensured advance payments to victims of violent crimes and domestic violence. The Portuguese law had a broad definition of a victim, which encompassed family members who had been affected by the crime and took into consideration particular forms of vulnerability.

In addition to the counter-terrorism strategy, the Government had adopted a plan to prevent radicalization. The criminal code had been modified to update the definition of terrorism. Other changes had also been made to laws pertaining to citizenship and entry into the territory. Amendments to the internal security laws had sought to address the financing of terrorist activities. Training was provided to law enforcement officials to improve coordination and mobilize all governmental bodies dealing with terrorism.

Agreements that Portugal signed with other States usually included the prohibition of torture on grounds on which extradition could be stopped.

Addressing gender-based violence was amongst Portugal's top priorities. There were 25 emergency shelters and 40 long-term shelters for victims of domestic violence. In 2018, each kind of shelter had provided support to over 1,000 victims of violence. Regarding female genital mutilation, an electronic registrar had been established. As of September 2019, 54 cases had been flagged. Over 1,900 persons had undergone training on female genital mutilation as part of a pilot project.

Turning to human trafficking, delegates stressed that while there had been an increase in reports filed with the Observatory on Human Trafficking, this did not necessarily amount to an increase in actual cases. Efforts made to address labour trafficking had to be recognized, notably the strengthening of prosecution.  The Government paid careful attention to all victims of trafficking, acknowledging that minors were particularly vulnerable. A protocol had been put in place to implement a national referencing mechanism for minors, which would reinforce interventions and victims' rights.

In 2018, 286 persons had been granted refugee status and 405 persons subsidiary protection. The recognition rate stood at 25.19 per cent in 2016, 28.63 per cent in 2017 and 54.32 per cent in 2018.

Portugal ranked fifth amongst all European Union Member States that took part in the relocation programme that sought to relieve Italy and Greece.

On the identification of victims of torture, a national team specialized in human trafficking had been created. It had specialized knowledge and received dedicated training on this matter. At the border, medical examinations were conducted by the non-governmental organization Doctors of the World. 

On the Istanbul Protocol, all torture or ill-treatment related complaints were expeditiously transferred for investigation to the Ministry of Internal Administration and the General Inspectorate of the Internal Administration.

People who applied for international protection at the border were informed of the decision within seven days. As per national legislation, all final decisions rendered by administrative and judicial bodies were transmitted in writing to the individuals concerned.

Applicants for international protection who were under 16 were not held in Temporary Installation Centres. Minors who were aged 16 years or older were only held in such centres if this was in their superior interest. 

The General Inspectorate of Internal Affairs had conducted visits without prior notice to Temporary Installation Centres. In 2010, fours such visits had been conducted. There had been four in 2014 as well and two in 2017. 

In 2015, the General Inspectorate of Internal Affairs started monitoring forced expulsions. In 2019, out of 244 forced expulsions communicated by the Portuguese Immigration and Borders Service, the General Inspectorate of Internal Affairs monitored 18 of those operations, mostly concerning individuals being sent back to Brazil, Cabo Verde and Guinea Bissau.

Concerning the Disciplinary Cases investigated by the General Inspectorate of Internal Affairs the overwhelming majority of the proceedings were related to ill-treatment.

With regard to the Cova da Moura case, soon after the incident took place, the General Inspectorate of Internal Affairs initiated inquiry proceedings which lead to opening nine disciplinary proceedings, out of which in three of them the provisional measure of preventive suspension of duties for 90 days was applied to the defendants while the disciplinary proceedings were ongoing. After completion of the nine disciplinary proceedings, seven were shelved and in two proceedings effective penalties of 90 and 120 days suspension of duties were applied to the defendants. Both penalties were appealed."

The General Inspectorate of Internal Affairs and its inspectors were not linked, institutionally or otherwise, to the individuals it investigated. This body's disciplinary power ran along that of the relevant hierarchy. The General Inspectorate of Internal Affairs did not investigate all disciplinary violations, only the most serious ones. It could however provide oversight regarding less serious cases. It opened up about 800 administrative cases per year on average.

The Porto Prison's population had been reduced to 987 inmates, that is 91 inmates fewer than in January. Nevertheless, it was still overcrowded with occupation standing at 143 per cent.

Causes of death in prison were always investigated. It was true, however, that that information was not sufficiently taken into account when assessing the health-related needs of inmates.

There were currently 2,399 persons held in pretrial detention, about 18.8 per cent of the total carceral population. There were 156 inmates aged between 16 and 20 years. On solitary confinement, the law did not prevent the confinement of young inmates to "disciplinary cells". Steps would be taken to find alternatives to these measures, the use of which really was exceptional. The law allowed confinement in "disciplinary cells" for up to 21 days, but a directive had been issued to limit it to 15 days.

On overcrowding, it should be noted that, when determining an individual's place of detention, factors such as vicinity of family members were considered, and this could lead to their being sent to a prison with a high occupation rate. 

On healthcare services provided to inmates, in the last three years, 10 doctors, 90 nurses, 14 psychologists and 12 diagnostic technicians had been hired. In 2019, 390 more professionals would be hired through outsourcing schemes.  The Ministry of Justice had two forensic psychiatric services, one in the northern part of the country and the other in the south.  It actually employed 10 psychiatrists and 12 psychologists on a full-time basis.

Concerning racial discrimination in general, 346 complaints had been registered, which marked a 93 per cent increase compared to the previous year. About 32 per cent of all complaints had to do with the Gypsy communities – this was the denomination that Roma people in Portugal used to refer to themselves. The Government had launched an online campaign to deter hate speech.

Turning to alleged police brutality towards Afro-descendants, delegates said the Portuguese Police Service did not share the Committee's view on the use of force by police officers against the Afro descendant community. In recent years, there had not been any individuals of African descent who had died at the hands of the police. Rather, the police had built bridges with the community of people of African descent. To improve policing of these communities, a programme called Together for Everyone had been put in place to prevent conflicts in the most vulnerable multicultural communities, through training of police forces and awareness-raising activities involving youth from these communities. In 2018, 136 police officers had been trained for a total of 952 hours and approximately 1,350 awareness-raising actions had been carried out, including on diversity, intolerance and violence based on prejudice.

Follow-Up Questions by the Committee

CLAUDE HELLER ROUASSANT, Co-Rapporteur for Portugal, asked about the status of guidelines and information on torture and ill-treatment contained in the document produced by the General Inspectorate on Internal Affairs.

The Co-Rapporteur expressed concerns about the national preventive mechanism, which was understaffed. The Government could make recommendations to Parliament regarding the budget allocated to this body, he suggested.

BAKHTIYAR TUZMUKHAMEDOV, Co-Rapporteur for Portugal, noted that a detainee could be moved from one facility to another during the six-hour detention for identification purposes. He requested information about plans to build dedicated facilities at the Lisbon airport.

Follow-Up Replies by the Delegation

RÓMULO MATEUS, Director-General for Reinsertion and Prison Services of Portugal, assured that additional information on the Cova de Moura case would be provided in writing.

It would be quite challenging to give the General Inspectorate for Internal Affairs a fully independent status. It was, however, an interesting proposal that would be brought to the attention of the relevant ministry. The General Inspectorate for Internal Affairs could not compete with the national preventive mechanism, the resources of which had to be increased. The delegation would pass on the concerns expressed by the Committee in that regard. 

Concluding Remarks

RÓMULO MATEUS, Director-General for Reinsertion and Prison Services of Portugal, expressed the delegation's appreciation for the Committee's relentless commitment to human rights. This demanding experience had been an opportunity to improve the promotion and protection of human rights. A few years ago, the Portuguese prison system had high rates of overcrowding. The judicial culture had undergone a dramatic change. The incarceration rate had been consistently dropping since 2016.

RUI MACIEIRA, Permanent Representative of Portugal to the United Nations Office at Geneva, reiterated Portugal's commitment to human rights. Throughout the Portuguese administration, people would be involved in implementing the Committee's recommendations.

JENS MODVIG, Committee Chairperson, recalled that the Committee would request that the State party submit a report on the implementation of three urgent recommendations. He thanked the delegation.

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