April 11, 2001

U.N. investigator says torture widespread in Brazil

                  GENEVA, Switzerland (Reuters) -- A United Nations investigator who went on a
                  mission to Brazil last year called Wednesday for an end to the "widespread and
                  systematic" torture of detainees, especially poor, black petty criminals.

                  Sir Nigel Rodley, a British law professor who serves in the independent post of
                  U.N. special rapporteur (investigator) on the question of torture, also said
                  conditions in which prisoners were held were often "subhuman."

                  His speech and 155-page report to the annual session of the U.N. Commission on
                  Human Rights covered a visit from August 20 to September 12.

                  "Torture and similar ill-treatment are meted out on a widespread and systematic
                  basis in most of the parts of the country I visited and, as far as indirect
                  testimonies presented to me from reliable sources suggest, in most other parts of
                  the country," Rodley told the 53-member state forum in Geneva.

                  "It is found at all phases of detention: arrest, preliminary detention, other
                  provisional detention, and in penitentiaries and institutions for juvenile offenders,"
                  he added.

                  "It does not happen to all or everywhere; mainly it happens to poor, black
                  common criminal suspects accused of having committed petty crimes or
                  small-scale drug distribution."

                  Rodley, law professor at the University of Essex, called on Brazil's federal and
                  state political leaders to declare clearly that they would not tolerate torture or
                  other ill-treatment of detainees by military and civil police, prison personnel and
                  staff of juvenile institutions.

                  Officials should make "unannounced visits to police stations, pre-trial detention
                  facilities and penitentiaries known for the prevalence of such treatment,"
                  according to Rodley, a former lawyer at Amnesty International in London who
                  has been the U.N. watchdog on torture for six years.

                  "In particular, they should hold those in charge of places of detention at the time
                  abuses are perpetrated personally responsible for the abuses," he said.

                  "Free legal assistance, especially at the stage of initial deprivation of liberty, is
                  illusory for most of the 85 percent of those in that condition who need it. This is
                  because of the limited number of public defenders," he added.

                     Copyright 2001 Reuters.