Thursday 8 March 2018
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The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) and the Anti-Torture Initiative (ATI) urge the Brazilian government to reverse the decision that handed control of security to the military in the state of Rio de Janeiro following President Michel Temer’s signing of a decree for ‘federal intervention’ on 16 February 2018.
Additionally, the IBAHRI and ATI recommend the Brazilian government and judiciary to refrain from adopting blanket search warrants and establish safeguards to ensure investigation, prosecution and punishment for torture and other abuses committed by military forces be tried by civilian courts, as required by international standards.
IBAHRI Co-Chair, Ambassador (ret.) Hans Corell, stated: ‘The legal repercussions of this military intervention in Rio de Janeiro are profoundly concerning for the rule of law in Brazil and for the right to a fair trial by an independent and impartial tribunal. Also of concern are the issues around access to legal counsel and impartial mechanisms for accountability of state officials. We concur with the international human rights bodies that have expressed apprehension for the Brazilian system in such emergency-like circumstances, including the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the United Nations Special Rapporteurs and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.’
The federal intervention means that army forces fully assume functions of the police and security forces for approximately one year, with military courts overseeing the conduct of those troops, including excessive use of force, torture or other crimes they may commit. Civilians may also be tried in these courts for alleged crimes against military personnel or for refusing to abide by military-issued orders.
Under current legislation, Brazilian military jurisdiction is excessively broad and does not comply with international standards. Further, the composition of military courts – made up mainly of military officials in the role of judges – hinders due process and fair trial guarantees. Still, the Brazilian government has announced it will request blanket search warrants for entire neighbourhoods in Rio de Janeiro.
ATI Director and former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Méndez, commented: ‘The government aims to obtain judicial approval for indiscriminate searches on private dwellings, without specific probable cause. Given the recent history of such interventions in Brazil, this measure anticipates an increased risk for torture and extrajudicial executions. The Minister of Justice has recently characterised the situation in Rio de Janeiro as a “war”, a statement that raises concerns vis-à-vis the application of the law of armed conflict to a crisis of criminality and insecurity that should instead be treated with law-enforcement and criminal justice tools.’
Notes to the Editor
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