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The IBA’s response to the situation in Ukraine
Following recent prison riots in the states of Manaus and Roraima in Brazil, which have resulted in the deaths of around 100 people and the escape of many convicts, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) calls on the country’s legal profession to work with urgency towards improving prison conditions and creating environments where the human rights of both inmates and guards are respected, enforced and upheld.
IBAHRI Co-Chair Baroness Helena Kennedy QC said: ‘Unfortunately, the riots in Brazil’s prisons are a direct consequence of long-term overcrowding, underfunding and systemic failures in ensuring safety and delivering proper assistance to the prison population. That the Brazilian legal profession has a major role to play in improving the prison system is incontestable and the IBAHRI is committed to working alongside Brazil’s prominent legal entities to bring about the change needed.’
The IBAHRI has worked extensively in Brazil with regard to issues related to Brazil’s prison system and published a report on the topic in 2010, titled: One in Five: The crisis in Brazil’s prisons and criminal justice system. In the framework of its latest visit to the country in December 2016, the IBAHRI met representatives of Brazil’s Ministry of Justice and Citizenship, the Public Defender’s Office, the Brazilian Bar Association Human Rights Commission and the National Mechanism for the Prevention of Torture. Last December the IBAHRI also ran a training session for public defenders in Brasília, and in Curitiba co-organised an international seminar on torture prevention.
Following the seminar in Curitiba, the Commission for the Defence of Human Rights of Paraná’s Bar Association organised a visit to a local police station for an IBAHRI delegation, comprised of prominent legal professionals from Argentina, Peru and Portugal. The delegation observed that the police station had two cells, built to accommodate four detainees. However, at the time of the visit there were more than 20 prisoners in each cell. Local police asked for the delegation’s support in alerting the federal and national authorities to the vast overcrowding.
Overcrowding in Brazil’s prisons has been extensively documented and denounced by international organisations, including the United Nations when, in 2015, the then-Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Juan Méndez, called on the Brazilian federal and state authorities to address the issue.
Recognising that there are many factors contributing to the current prison situation, Baroness Kennedy commented: ‘Lawyers’ caseloads of pre-trial detainees are mountainous and growing. The need to diminish them is great and we call on all of Brazil’s legal professionals to work to achieve this objective and to ensure that inmates are guaranteed humane treatment and appropriate and safe living conditions in line with established international standards. It is unconscionable that people serving prison sentences should be killed in jail.’
Notes to the Editor
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