U.N. investigator says torture widespread in Brazil
GENEVA, Switzerland (Reuters) -- A United Nations investigator who went
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
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
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,
provisional detention, and in penitentiaries and institutions for juvenile offenders,"
"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
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
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.