Press briefing notesOffice of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Press briefing notes on Brazil
23 April 2013
Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Cécile Pouilly Location: Geneva Date: 23 April 2013
On 21 April, a state tribunal in Sao Paulo, Brazil convicted by jury 23 military police officers to long prison sentences for their responsibility in the death of 13 inmates during the repression of a prison riot in Carandiru on 2 October 1992. A total of 111 inmates lost their lives during the suppression of the riot. Investigations revealed that many prisoners were shot at close range.
Prior to this conviction, the only person to have faced trial for the killings in Carandiru is the commander of the operation, Colonel Ubiratan Guimaraes, who in 2001 was convicted for excessive use of force, but acquitted on appeal in 2006. Some 53 military police officers are expected to stand trial in the coming months in connection with the deaths of the other detainees in Carandiru.
We commend the Brazilian authorities, after more than two decades of impunity for one of the most brutal incidents of violence in a prison, for bringing justice for some of the victims of Carandiru and will follow closely the on-going trials regarding the other alleged perpetrators.
We also encourage the Brazilian authorities to urgently address the dire situation in prisons in which nearly half a million people are detained.
In response to questions:
The 23 military police officers were sentenced to 156 years in jail each. No high-ranking officials were convicted in the context of this trial. The 23 officers were members of the ROTA (Ronda Ostensible Tobias de Aguiar) elite group of the military police of Sao Paolo.
The High Commissioner has previously highlighted the seriousness of the human rights situation in Rakhine State, western Myanmar and the long-standing and systemic discrimination that exists against the Rohingya Muslim community in Rakhine State.
Allegations contained in the most recent reports of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar include allegations of widespread and systematic attacks against the Rohingya community, involving killings, sexual violence, arbitrary arrest and detention, torture and ill treatment in detention, denial of due process and fair trial rights, and arbitrary restrictions on freedom of movement.
The Government has an obligation under international human rights law to investigate these allegations and to hold those responsible to account, as well as amending discriminatory laws and practices which, for instance, place restrictions on the freedom of movement of the Muslim community.
The High Commissioner is eager to study the findings of the Investigation Commission, set up by the President of Myanmar, and see the extent to which it addresses these allegations. It is due to publish its findings in the coming days.
Visit of the High Commissioner to Angola:
The High Commissioner is conducting her first ever mission to Angola. She will meet with President Eduardo dos Santos, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Justice and Human Rights, Interior, Women and Family Protection and the Attorney General. The High Commissioner will also meet with Angola’s Ombudsman and the President of the Constitutional Court, as well as with members of the civil society. A number of field visits are also planned. Yesterday, the High Commissioner visited the Lunda Norte region, where she met with local communities and migrants. The High Commissioner will hold a press conference in Luanda on Wednesday.
On Syria: Abduction of two bishops: The situation on the ground is extremely worrying. Kidnapping and abduction of civilians is a growing concern in Syria. All kidnapped and abducted civilians should be released immediately. International humanitarian law prohibits the taking of hostages by any party to the conflict.
Invitation by the Syrian Government of the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict: Documenting human rights violations taking place in Syria is crucial. Despite repeated calls, the Commission of Inquiry has unfortunately not be allowed to carry an investigation in Syria since the beginning of the conflict. We encourage the Government to extend an open invitation to all special mandate holders, to fully cooperate with them, and to help them to fulfil their mandates, including by facilitating access to all victims of human rights violations and guaranteeing freedom from reprisalor retaliation.
On Côte d’Ivoire / fight against impunity:
The High Commissioner has repeatedly said that there should be no impunity for the crimes committed during the conflict in Côte d’Ivoire. In several reports, she has recommended that the Government of Côte d’Ivoire conduct in-depth, independent and impartial investigations into all politically-related violence. She has urged the Government to implement the recommendations of the International Commission of Inquiry on Côte d’Ivoire mandated by the Human Rights Council in 2011 through concrete action designed to break the cycle of impunity and bring perpetrators to justice.
The Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Côte d’Ivoire, who will visit Côte d’Ivoire next week, has reiterated the same concerns about the lack of impartiality in the current strategy for the pursuit of justice in Côte d’Ivoire. He has highlighted the fact that no serious proceedings have yet been brought against members of the FRCI and their associates. Although measures have been taken to try detainees and provisionally release a significant number of figures from the former regime, the Independent Expert insisted on the necessity to make such measures more credible through greater impartiality on the part of the judiciary towards those recognized as being responsible for massive violations of human rights of all political persuasions, including those seen as being close to the ruling power.
For more information or media requests, please contact Cécile Pouilly (+ 41 22 917 9310 / [email protected])