Brazil must guarantee human rights for children in socio-educational centres

Vitória de Santo Antão child detention centre in Pernambuco State © Bianca Moreira

In Brazil, children and adolescents in detention are regularly subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Socio-educational centres, far from focusing on r the reintegration of children, are based on a punitive and repressive approach, in which torture is routine. This punitive approach also permeates the judicial system, making deprivation of liberty a first resort

In 2017, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) found significant violations of the fundamental rights of children in conflict with the law in Brazil.

They denounced the excessive use of deprivation of liberty, the unlawful prolongation of provisional detention, torture in detention facilities, the militarisation of social and educational agents and the practice of humiliating searches of teenagers and their family members. After its 2015 visit to the country, the UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture (SPT) reported that children were exposed to constant physical abuse and denied legal safeguards in detention. Children bearing marks of torture, being kept in their cells for 23 hours a day, as well as the widespread use of handcuffs, are some of the many violations that our organisations have witnessed.

In addition to the torture of children, issues such as inadequate hygiene conditions, lack of water, poor food and few educational activities, which contribute to long periods of confinement, are common. We are concerned with the repeated cases of arson, death, suicide attempts and self-harm among adolescents in detention.

Impunity for the torture of children is prevalent, due to the lack of reporting mechanisms for children, fear of reprisals, the lack of legal assistance and of investigations. Even cases that are investigated are very unlikely to result in a conviction for the crime of torture. The lack of external evaluation and monitoring of the institution in charge of the socio-educational system is also of great concern.

These findings are some of the conclusions of the alternative report presented by Gabinete de Assessoria Jurídica às Organizações Populares (GAJOP), the Centro de Defesa da Criança e do Adolescente - CEDECA Ceara and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) for the second periodic report of the Brazilian State for the 76th session of the UN Committee Against Torture.

Read our Alternative Report here