Torture in Brazil

In Brazil, there two types of crime: those committed by the rich and those committed by the poor.

If you are rich, you can, within reason, do what you like, so long as you have money to pay. For example, you drink too much and are caught driving without license or insurance. The police car stops you and you say that you left your documents at home and should be punished. How much is the punishment? 50 USD usually settles the account.

If you are poor, it is more complicated. It is frequent to witness patrols of up to 30 Military Police, heavily armed, rooting out suspected pickpockets in crowds. Without any evidence being necessary, the victim is kicked, punched, whipped and taken to the police station for indescribable torture. All this in a civilised country on the threshold of the Third Millennium.

The situation does not escape the attention of the latest Amnesty International report. It states that torture is a routine and commonplace action by the Brazilian police force: “Torture substitutes the traditional methods of investigation and has become common practice all over the country”, according to Tim Cahill, Amnesty International investigator for Brazil.

He stated that there are two problems in Brazil: impunity for the perpetrators and a lack of will to implement the anti-torture law, which was only passed in 1997. Brazil’s 16 years of democracy after 20 years of military dictatorship have had little or no effect in changing the climate in what is still, apparently, a police state.

The AI report denounces the routine use of torture “to obtain confessions, subjugate, humiliate and control detained persons, or, with increasing frequency, to extort money or to serve the criminal interests of corrupt police personnel”.

The methods are kicking, beating, electric shocks, psychological pressure, asphyxia or shooting. Pravda.Ru contacts in Brazil have first-hand evidence of such an event. A doctor was invited to witness a live “death scene”. Curious, he went to the police station, where he saw a man, handcuffed to a chair, surrounded by 18 police personnel (6 in civilian clothes and 12 uniformed) shot through the back of the neck because he had said that he knew his rights. This case is undocumented, but witnessed by personal contacts known to Pravda.Ru.

As the AI report states, the poor “compose a sector of society whose rights have always been ignored in Brazil”.

In documented another case, in Sao Paulo, a man was strung up to a pole, stripped naked and left hanging for hours, while he was systematically kicked, whipped and received electric shocks to his testicles. He was forced to sign a confession for a crime he had not committed. According to Amnesty International, no police officer was charged for this proven crime.

While the Brazilian government of Fernando Henrique Cardoso makes promises to investigate the situation, nothing is done, as usual.


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