Press Release

IACHR Rapporteurs Wrap Up Visit to Brazil

December 15, 2017

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Washington, D.C.—The Rapporteur on the Rights of the Child and the Rapporteur for Brazil of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) carried out a working visit to Brazil November 13-17, 2017. The main purpose of the visit was to monitor the functioning of the National System for Socio-Educational Services (SINASE) for juveniles in contact with the law, as well as the conditions for holding these adolescents in custody. The delegation consisted of Commissioner Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño, the Commission’s Second Vice-President and Rapporteur on the Rights of the Child; Commissioner James Cavallaro, Rapporteur for Brazil; and staff of the Executive Secretariat.

In Brazil there is a context of structural and widespread violence in juvenile detention centers; allegations of abuse and maltreatment committed by other inmates and by staff at these facilities, or with their knowledge; homicides, acts of torture, riots, escapes, overcrowding, and unsanitary conditions; and a lack of effective programs that serve a socio-educational and social integration purpose for juveniles in contact with the law, among other situations of human rights violations that have repeatedly been brought to the attention of the IACHR. According to a recent report on “Killings of Young People,” produced by the Federal Senate’s Parliamentary Investigative Commission, on average more than two adolescents die every month in these socio-educational facilities. According to the same report, barely half of the juveniles deprived of liberty are enrolled in the educational system.

The IACHR has repeatedly expressed its dismay over circumstances of this nature and its concern over the fact that when juveniles come into contact with the socio-educational services system they are exposed to violations of their rights, instead of this being an opportunity to support their constructive and positive integration into society and prevent recidivism, as established under Brazilian law.

In this context just described, the IACHR has recently granted precautionary measures related to several juvenile detention centers. The IACHR is currently monitoring compliance with these measures and singled them out for observation during the visit: PM 60-15, related to detention facilities in the state of Ceará, from December 2015, and PM 302-15, related to a facility in São Paulo, from July 2016. There are also provisional measures in effect from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights related to the Socio-Educational Internment Unit (UNIS) in the state of Espírito Santo, which was also one of the facilities the Commission visited.

During the visit, the IACHR verified that SINASE continues to face considerable challenges in its operations, and identified patterns of abuse, maltreatment, and torture; the lack of safe conditions; and structural deficiencies in the facilities and in the management of these detention centers. The delegation was also informed about the large number of juveniles deprived of liberty for nonviolent, drug-related offenses—approximately 27 percent of the total—and about the excessive and illegal use of pretrial detention, factors that contribute to the high level of overcrowding in the detention centers and that are contrary to international standards.

The IACHR notes that the adoption of the SINASE Law (12.594/2012), approved five years ago, represents an example of the Brazilian State’s commitment to find measures that are in line with international standards for juvenile justice, incorporating them formally into the law’s provisions. However, there are serious challenges to the effective enforcement of this law that require immediate attention. The IACHR recommends to the State that it adopt and carry out a plan that would allow for the full implementation of the provisions of this law, an evaluation of the functioning of SINASE, and the allocation to SINASE of sufficient financial resources.

The Commission welcomes the information provided by the State in terms of its willingness to expand the application of a model of restorative justice for juveniles in contact with the law, and its efforts to ensure that is implemented effectively. At the same time, it cautions that these efforts are in a very early stage of implementation. Among the initiatives presented, the IACHR agrees that it is critically important to review the processes in place for selecting and providing ongoing training to socio-educational staff, whose current role more closely resembles that of security forces than of socio-educational personnel who have the knowledge and ability to support the process of rehabilitation and social integration of the adolescents.

The IACHR also urges the State to adopt the necessary measures to promote coordination among the various agencies and institutions responsible for implementing SINASE-related policies at different levels—federal, state, and municipal—and to take steps to overcome situations in which this law is being applied unevenly in the states. In addition, the IACHR recommends a more robust and steadfast cooperation with the judicial branch to reduce the number of juveniles in custody, in order to respect in practice the principle of exceptionality of confinement measures recognized in the State’s domestic legal framework.

The Commissioners held meetings in Brasilia with federal authorities and civil society organizations that work to defend the rights of children and adolescents. They also visited the states of Ceará, Espírito Santo, and São Paulo, where in addition to meeting with state-level authorities and civil society organizations, they visited several juvenile detention centers. The visit also included working meetings on indigenous and Afro-descendant issues, following up on the 165th session of the IACHR held in Montevideo, Uruguay. Authorities responsible for these issues attended these meetings, as did Commissioner James Cavallaro, Rapporteur for Brazil.

The Inter-American Commission thanks the government of Brazil for its invitation to visit, as well as for the willingness of the highest-level federal and state authorities to make themselves available, and the open and unrestricted access the delegation had to all the juvenile detention centers, to their agencies, and to the personnel and inmates at these centers. The IACHR particularly appreciates and values the information provided by the State, civil society organizations, juvenile inmates and their family members, and other interested parties. The delegation visited the Socio-Educational Internment Unit (UNIS), the Temporary Internment Unit (UNIP II), and the Female Internment Unit (UFI), in Espírito Santo; the Cedro Center for Socio-Educational Services for Adolescents (CASA) and the Novo Aroeira Center for Socio-Educational Services for Adolescents, both in the Raposo Tavares Complex, in São Paulo; and the San Miguel Educational Center, the Dom Bosco Educational Center, and the Passaré Educational Center, in Ceará.

The visit was carried out in response to the government of Brazil’s invitation—made during a thematic hearing on the “Human Rights Situation of Adolescent Offenders in Brazil,” held on March 22, 2017—to observe how SINASE operates. During that hearing, the IACHR received considerable troubling information from civil society organizations and had the opportunity to hear about the types of measures adopted by federal and state authorities to address this situation.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote the respect for and defense of human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 209/17