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UN rights expert urges Brazil not to lower the age of criminal responsibility of children

Judged as adults

17 August 2016

GENEVA (17 August 2016) – United Nations human rights expert Juan E. Méndez today called on Brazilian legislators to protect the human rights of children in conflict with the law by rejecting a proposed constitutional amendment that would lower the age of criminal responsibility of children.

The expert’s urgent appeal comes as the Brazilian Senate’s Constitution and Justice Committee prepares to vote on the constitutional amendment PEC No. 33/2012 that would reduce the age of criminal responsibility of children from 18 to 16 years of age for heinous crimes.

“The detention of children is inextricably linked with the ill-treatment of children, who are at heightened risks of violence, abuses, and acts of torture when deprived of their liberty,” the UN Special Rapporteur on torture said. “Children’s unique vulnerability requires States to implement higher standards and broader safeguards for the prevention of torture and ill-treatment.”

“Prosecuting adolescent offenders as adults would violate Brazil’s obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, even if those convicted would serve part or all of their sentences at facilities separate from adults,” Mr. Méndez noted.

The independent expert also expressed concerns about pending legislation that would raise the maximum length of sentences for children over 14 years of age who are in conflict with the law from 3 to 10 years (PEC No. 333/15).

“Children are less emotionally and psychologically developed than adults, so they are less liable for their actions, and their sentencing should always reflect the principles of rehabilitation and reintegration into society,” the independent expert explained.

“The approval of these proposals would also worsen the currently already seriously overcrowded penitentiaries throughout Brazil, conditions which frequently amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment,” said Mr. Méndez, who visited* Brazil in August 2015. “Many juvenile detention facilities in the country suffer from excessive overcrowding and from a lack of implementation of socio-educational, recreational, and rehabilitative programs.” 

The Special Rapporteur has exchanged views with the Government of Brazil on this issue and looks forward to a continuing dialogue.

(*) Check the Special Rapporteur’s report on Brazil:
See also the Special Rapporteur’s report on children deprived of liberty:

Mr. Juan E. Méndez (Argentina) 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 2010. He has dedicated his legal career to the defense of human rights, and has a long and distinguished record of advocacy throughout the Americas. Learn more, log on to: 

The Special Rapporteurs 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 Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment:

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For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
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