Portugal: Human Rights Violations Must Be Stopped

The organisation is concerned that law enforcement officials may have used firearms in breach of international standards and national laws. In particular it is concerned about the fatal shootings by police officers of Ângelo Semedo, António Pereira, and Nuno Lucas. The three men were killed in separate incidents which occurred between December 2001 and August 2002.

It is alleged that none of the men was armed at the time, nor that there was a clear and imminent danger to the lives of the officers or of those present at the time of each shooting. Amnesty International is also concerned that the police officers involved were neither suspended from active duty nor ordered not to carry firearms pending disciplinary and criminal investigations.

Amnesty International has repeatedly expressed concern over deaths in police custody and the Portuguese authorities' failure promptly to bring to justice those allegedly responsible for human rights violations. Reports indicate that the authorities may be failing to protect the right to life of people detained in police stations, particularly from the risks of self-inflicted injuries.

Amnesty International has been gravely concerned at the failure of the authorities to ensure the protection of the right to life of people detained in prisons, in particular from inter-prisoner violence and self-harm in the case of particularly vulnerable persons. Inter-prisoner violence has been a major problem in Portuguese prisons in the last decade, and has continued to be so in recent years, including incidents that resulted in fatalities.

The organisation received information indicating that between July 2001 and January 2002 four people were killed reportedly as a result of inter-prisoner violence, three of them - Rui Jorge Oliveira Gomes, Augusto Morgado Fernandes and António Oliveira Dias - in Vale de Judeus prison. Although not designed as a high security prison, Vale de Judeus is an establishment housing dangerous prisoners and prisoners sentenced to long terms of imprisonment.

In 2001, 20 people were also reported to have died from self-inflicted injuries in Portuguese prisons. This is the highest number of such deaths since 1998, when 20 cases were also recorded. There had been 13 cases in 1999 and 10 in 2000.

Amnesty International is concerned that prison staff may not be adequately trained to identify and ensure the safety of particularly vulnerable inmates; and that procedures to ensure their safety and address their needs - especially medical needs - may be either disregarded or lacking in some establishments.

Amnesty International has continued to receive numerous reports of police ill-treatment of people - including Children's rights, Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and people belonging to ethnic minorities - at the time of arrest or in police stations. Reports of ill-treatment and racial abuse by police were corroborated by a number of local non-governmental organisations.

The organisation calls on the Portuguese authorities to:

  • implement fully and as a matter of priority the recommendations of the UN's HRC;
  • ensure that in all cases of human rights violations in which police or prison personnel are reasonably suspected, a criminal investigation is promptly initiated and completed, and that those charged are brought to justice within a reasonable time by way of a fair trial;
  • create an oversight agency over the police which is completely independent of the Ministry of the Interior, with powers to investigate grave human rights violations by law enforcement officials and to enforce disciplinary measures;
  • ensure the protection of the right to life and of the physical and mental integrity of all people in police or prison custody;
  • ensure the separation of people held in pre-trial detention from convicted prisoners;
  • ensure prompt and regular access to adequate medical care and adequate sanitary facilities for all people in custody;
  • create an adequately resourced oversight agency over the prison service which is completely independent of the prison service and of the Ministry of Justice, empowered to investigate inmates' complaints and carry out unannounced visits to all establishments.

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