Brazil: Anti-torture training milestone reached by IBAHRI and ATI joint programme

On the occasion of the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, 26 June

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Supporting Brazil’s commitment to eradicate torture as part of its obligations under international law, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) and the Anti-Torture Initiative (ATI) have reached the milestone of conducting tailored programmes in all five regions of Brazil on torture prevention and implementing the Istanbul Protocol (the ‘Protocol’) – the United Nations Manual on the Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Through a series of intensive courses and workshops, the two organisations have increased the capacity of professionals in 23 of Brazil’s 27 states. Training has centred on conducting effective legal and medical investigations into allegations of torture and ill treatment, as laid out in the Protocol, as well as how to report findings of torture to the judiciary or other investigative bodies.

Over the past 15 months, the IBAHRI and the ATI have collaborated in Latin America to uphold prompt and impartial investigations into allegations of torture and ill treatment, advocate for the independence of forensic services from law enforcement, and promote understanding and implementation of the Protocol. This work has been supported by Juan E Méndez, former UN Rapporteur on Torture, who, at its conclusion, held a public debate: ‘Torture and the Istanbul Protocol in the current Brazilian context’.

The reach of anti-torture advocacy in Brazil, specifically use of the Protocol, has broadened through collaborating with Brazilian stakeholders including the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) – the federal independent body established to monitor conditions where people are deprived of their liberty, in accordance to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT).

Initial tailor-made workshops for the NPMs, held at the UN office in Brasília in June 2017, were attended by all 11 members and two representatives from the State Preventive Mechanism of Pernambuco. Most recently, and with the support of the OPCAT Special Fund, a two-day interactive workshop was held in Rio de Janeiro with the new members of the NPM, and all six members of the State Preventive Mechanism of Rio de Janeiro.

Training was extended to members of the legal profession (lawyers, public defenders, judges and prosecutors) as well as forensic services (doctors and psychologists) in two states. In Manaus, (Northern region) 61 participants from Acre, Amazonas and Roraima were hosted by the Academy of the Amazon Magistrates, and in Natal (North-eastern region) where 66 professionals participated from the states of Alagoas, Bahia, Ceará, Maranhão, Paraíba, Pernambuco, Piauí, Rio Grande do Norte and Sergipe. They were hosted by the local section of the Brazilian Bar Association, Ordem dos Advogados do Rio Grande do Norte. Prison conditions are appalling in both states, which faced deadly prison riots at the beginning of 2017.

Moreover, in May 2018, training on the Protocol was delivered to professionals from the states of Bahia, Distrito Federal, Espírito Santo, Maranhão, Mato Grosso do Sul, Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. The training sessions took place at the State Public Defender’s Office of Rio de Janeiro. They were co-organised by the NPM and the Foundation for Training of Public Defenders (FESUDEPERJ) and attended by 72 professionals.

The intensive cross-nation training programme culminated in Santa Catarina on 22 May 2018, where the Magistrate Academy from the Santa Catarina State Court hosted a two-day training for 38 legal and health professionals from Mato Grosso, Paraná, Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina and São Paulo.

In parallel to the trainings, an event led by the ATI, the Association for the Prevention of Torture and the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights brought together 15 experts, including the IBAHRI’s Senior Programme Lawyer Verónica Hinestroza, in Rio de Janeiro from 18–19 May to commence the development of a set of guidelines on non-coercive interviewing and procedural safeguards.

The process aims to ensure that persons detained and questioned for investigative purposes are not subjected to torture or other forms of ill treatment. As part of its international advocacy for international decision-making processes to consider the particular challenges faced by Latin American countries, the IBAHRI hosted a side event to the first meeting of the Steering Committee. Titled ‘Understanding the state of interrogation methods in Brazil’, the event offered a platform for Brazilian stakeholders to discuss pressing concerns and best practices regarding police interrogations and judiciary review with members of the Committee. The event was attended by the Rio de Janeiro State Public Defender’s Office and a state police investigator, who, together with the IBAHRI’s legal consultant in Brazil, Rafael Barreto, shared positive local advances towards non-coercive interviewing, as well as standing concerns regarding police questioning during arrest, transportation and within police stations, and the special vulnerabilities faced by children, homeless and mentally ill suspects.

Thereafter, the IBAHRI held advocacy meetings in São Paulo with various stakeholders to share the main findings of its work and explore routes to continue to support Brazil and its legal profession in its effort to eradicate torture from the criminal system.

Meetings included São Paulo State Court of Justice Department of Police Investigations (DIPO), responsible for arraignment hearings, the Office of the Court’s Presidency, São Paulo State Prosecutor’s Office – Human Rights Department, and São Paulo State Public Defender’s Office – Human Rights and Prison Oversight Departments. The IBAHRI also met with civil society counterparts Conectas Direitos Humanos, Instituto Brasileiro de Ciências Criminais (IBCCRIM), Instituto de Defesa do Direito de Defesa (IDDD), Instituto Terra, Trabalho e Cidadania (ITTC), Rede Justiça Criminal and Associação Brasileira de Defesa da Mulher, da Infância e da Juventude (ASBRAD).

IBAHRI professionals have worked in Brazil since 2010 and will continue to support the adoption of international tools and standards for the prevention of torture via knowledge-sharing and advocacy activities, as well as the promotion of legislative and regulatory reforms.


Notes to the Editor

  1. Torture and the Istanbul Protocol in the current Brazilian context’ was held on the evening of 15 May 2018. It was organised by the IBAHRI with the Brazilian NPM, featured a keynote address by Juan E Méndez, former UN Rapporteur on Torture, included debaters from partner institutions to the event and was chaired by IBAHRI Senior Programme Lawyer Verónica Hinestroza. Following the conference, a roundtable was held with representatives from national and local civil society organisations and a delegate from the APT. The event was open to the public and took place at the campus of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro in partnership with its Psychology Institute.
  2. The IBAHRI is taking part in the development of a supplement to the Istanbul Protocol. The project aims to strengthen the Protocol with updates and clarifications based on practical experience and the needs of Protocol stakeholders. It will be finalised next year and is being led by Physicians for Human Rights, International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims, Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, REDRESS, the UN Committee against Torture, UN Subcommittee for the Prevention of Torture, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture.
  3. In March 2017, the IBAHRI and ATI brought together international and national experts for a two-day high-level consulting group meeting in Mexico City. Titled ‘Cross-Regional Perspectives on Implementation and the Enhancement of the Istanbul Protocol’, the meeting focused on discussing the role of the Istanbul Protocol in combating torture and lessons learned from its implementation in a number of jurisdictions. This work was possible due to the support of a United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office grant and the British Embassy Mexico City.
  4. The International Bar Association (IBA), established in 1947, is the world’s leading organisation of international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Through its global membership of individual lawyers, law firms, bar associations and law societies it influences the development of international law reform and shapes the future of the legal profession throughout the world.

    The IBA’s administrative office is in London, United Kingdom. Regional offices are located in: São Paulo, Brazil; Seoul, South Korea; and Washington DC, United States, while the International Bar Association’s International Criminal Court and International Criminal Law Programme (ICC & ICL) is managed from an office in The Hague, the Netherlands.

    The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), an autonomous and financially independent entity, works to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.
  5. The Anti-Torture Initiative (ATI) is a project of the Center for Human Rights & Humanitarian Law of the Washington College of Law (WCL) at American University. The ATI was created in 2011 with the goal of expanding the reach and practical implementation of the work of the former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Professor of Human Rights Law in Residence at WCL, Juan Méndez. The ATI has played a key role in supporting developing standards, providing technical assistance and capacity building, and promoting the implementation of reforms and best practices in different jurisdictions. During the mandate of the former Special Rapporteur from 2011 to November 2016, the ATI worked vigorously to complement its activities, particularly in the areas of monitoring, implementation and dissemination. Since 2016, the ATI has continued its mission to develop programmatic and country-specific activities in key thematic areas such as solitary confinement, investigative interviewing, gender and torture, and the Istanbul Protocol.

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