About a third of inmates report some type of violence at the time of arrest, perpetrated by public officials, including military police, civil police and prison guards. The data is part of the report produced by the Public Defender of the State of Rio de Janeiro, released this Thursday (9), for the period from August to December 2020. The testimonies were collected during custody hearings, when the prisoners are heard by a judge and a defender.
“From August 2020 – when the custody hearings were held again, after suspension by the pandemic – to December of the same year, 475 people arrested in flagrante reported having suffered aggression, mainly physical, most often provoked by military police and in the place of fact. The number represents 31% of the 1,920 men and women interviewed by the Public Defender of Rio in the period”, says the report.
According to the defender, the data contrasts with the almost absolute absence of allegations of ill-treatment between March and August of the same year, months in which the presentation of prisoners in flagrante was suspended, due to the pandemic. According to data released by the National Council of Justice (CNJ), in that period, the rate of abuse recorded was around 1%, as it was based only on information written in the records of the arrests in flagrante delicto.
“With the resumption of custody hearings, it is clear that the volume of allegations of ill-treatment and torture remained at the same level that we had already identified in previous surveys, at around 30% or a little more. Thus, it is possible to conclude that, during the period in which the hearings were suspended, there was a clear under-notification. This shows the importance of custody hearings, in person, to investigate the occurrence of torture. Without them, it is not possible to know whether torture took place or not”, declared the coordinator of the Nucleus of Custody Hearings (Nudac) of the Public Defender of Rio de Janeiro, Mariana Castro.
Of the 1,920 detainees heard in custody hearings, 475 claimed to have suffered some form of aggression. Of these, 282 were reports of physical violence; 45, physical and psychological, and 27, psychological. As for the aggressors, the prisoners said that 225 of them were military police officers, 26 were correctional officers and 19 were civil police officers, among others.
As for the place where the attacks took place, 259 stated that they took place at the place of the facts; 26 at a police station; five cases, at the prison site; 17 cases, inside a Military Police vehicle; and 15 cases, in a Civil Police vehicle, among other places.
The full report can be accessed at page of the Public Defender’s Office on the Internet
The Court of Justice (TJ), the Civil Police Secretariat, the Military Police Secretariat and the State Secretariat for Penitentiary Administration (SEAP) were approached to comment on the report.
The TJ replied that it is not aware of these numbers, has not received nor was officially communicated about the aforementioned report, the way in which it was prepared or in what period it was based. The court noted that one of the main purposes of custody hearings is to investigate any possible practice of violence, torture or ill-treatment in the prison or immediately after arrest.
“In the hearings held at the Central de Custody of Benfica, around 30% of those in custody (prisoners) report the practice of torture or ill-treatment in prison and, whenever there is a report in this regard, the presiding judge determines: 1) that, at the end of the hearing, a complementary report on the examination of the body of crime is carried out to be prepared in comparison with the statements of the custodian, in order to make possible any investigation to be carried out by Organs competent bodies; 2) the issuance of official letters to the competent bodies (Ministry of Public Affairs and Internal Affairs) to investigate the practice of reported violence”, highlighted the TJ.
Seap stated that it has not yet received the report and is awaiting receipt for knowledge of its content. “We also emphasize that measures are already being taken to avoid this type of situation and that, in case there is any report of aggression, the internal affairs department will check the veracity or not of it,” he added.
The Civil Police and Military Police secretariats were also contacted, but did not comment on the Public Defender’s report.
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