Press Release

IACHR Concerned About Actions that Affect Brazil’s National Mechanism to Prevent and Fight Torture

June 14, 2019

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) is particularly concerned about the Brazilian government’s decision to fire members of the National Mechanism to Prevent and Fight Torture and, by extension, to prevent completion of their mandates to protect persons deprived of liberty.

The Commission notes that—through Decree 9,831 of June 10, 2019—Brazil’s federal government fired members of the National Mechanism to Prevent and Fight Torture, the institution in charge of investigating and monitoring conditions of detention in incarceration centers including prisons, therapeutic communities and psychiatric hospitals. This decision practically disabled this mechanism until new members are appointed. According to the Decree, those new members—unlike their predecessors—will not be paid for their work.

Through a request for information sent to the State of Brazil in February 2019, the IACHR expressed its concern about hurdles the mechanism had allegedly been facing to fulfil its duty to inspect incarceration centers, particularly in the state of Ceará.

The IACHR stresses that centers for deprivation of liberty must be subjected to constant independent monitoring and auditing. The way persons deprived of liberty are treated must be subjected to the closest scrutiny, considering the special risks they face given both their deprivation of liberty and the fact that the State has complete control over their exercise of their rights. In particular, the Commission has stressed that the monitoring mechanisms created by the United Nations’ Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture—ratified by Brazil on January 12, 2007—are especially important to protect the fundamental rights of persons deprived of liberty, and to ensure compliance with Brazil’s international human rights obligations.

“Moves to dismantle independent monitoring mechanisms of this kind are especially worrying given the deplorable conditions of detention that prevail in Brazilian prisons,” said Commissioner Joel Hernández, IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty and to Prevent and Fight Torture. "During the in loco visit to Brazil that the IACHR conducted last year, we observed that such conditions entail serious risks for the lives and integrity of detainees and amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment,” Commissioner Hernández added.

“Firing members of the National Mechanism to Prevent and Fight Torture prevents this institution from doing its work, which violates [Brazil’s] international obligations concerning deprivation of liberty,” said Commissioner Antonia Urrejola, IACHR Rapporteur for Brazil. “We urge the State to take action to provide this mechanism with enough resources and institutional support to fulfil its mandate effectively, with the autonomy and independence that its monitoring tasks require,” Commissioner Urrejola noted.

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 respect for and to defend 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. 149/19