Portugal: Man beaten by more than ten prison officers

The report, Portugal: Attack on a prisoner in Lisbon Prison, raises serious concerns about ill-treatment with impunity in Lisbon prison. Albino Libanio was isolated from other prisoners so that prison officers could beat him without drawing unwanted attention. Prison officers who were not involved in the attack but knew about it, failed to report the incident to their superiors as they should have done. Virtually all prison officers in Lisbon Prison have refused to cooperate with the internal inquiry into the incident.

Amnesty International said:

“This vicious and seemingly-premeditated attack is a cause for serious concern. There may have been a system for ensuring that abuse of prison inmates by prison officers could take place in a climate of complicity and impunity.

“Similar attacks may have happened in Lisbon prison and in other prisons without coming to the attention of investigating and prosecuting authorities. Amnesty International is concerned about systemic failures to ensure the protection of the human rights of prisoners in Portugal.”

Amnesty International is also concerned about:

  • The attack on Albino Libanio, which may amount to torture;
  • The failure to provide Albino Libanio with medical assistance;
  • The failure of the prison authorities to protect inmates from abuse of their physical and mental integrity;
  • The lack of basic understanding on the part of prison officers of their duties and obligations towards prison inmates;
  • The breaches of international human rights laws and standards and of national laws and Prison Service regulations.

Amnesty International’s report calls on the government of Portugal to live up to its obligations under international law to protect detainees from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The government must ensure that prompt, thorough and independent investigations are carried out into allegations of such acts and bring the perpetrators to justice. Victims must have access to redress and adequate compensation.

The organisation is also calling on the Portuguese government to ratify and implement the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment at the earliest opportunity. By becoming a party to the Protocol, Portugal will be obliged to allow independent international inspection of its places for detention.

Amnesty International said:

“The Portuguese government must put an end to a culture that is fostering abuse of power in the prison system.

“All prison officers allegedly involved in the attack on Albino Libanio should be suspended pending the outcome of criminal investigations. The findings of the disciplinary and criminal investigations should be made public.

“Albino Libanio is entitled to justice. He must be given adequate compensation according to the findings of the investigation.”

Background

On 11 November 2003, Albino Libanio inquired with a trainee prison officer for a second time about the delivery of a package of food that he was expecting, and in doing so apparently used “inappropriate” language. The trainee prison officer considered his attitude disrespectful and reported the incident to the prison officer in charge of that wing of the prison. Albino Libanio was placed in a cell known as the “waiting room” or “cell 80”, which was used for the temporary placement of inmates in transit and as a cell for the separate detention of violent or vulnerable inmates. In the evening, the trainee officer took Albino Libanio to an area where a group of 10 to 15 prison officers had aligned themselves in two rows. Albino Libanio was forced to walk between the rows, while the prison officers pushed, kicked and punched him. Another prison officer noticed the commotion and led the prisoner away. None of the prison officers reported the incident. It became known by chance - on the following day Albino Libanio received a visit and told his visitors about the beating. They informed his lawyer who reported the attack to the Prison Service and the Public Prosecutor.

On 5 July 2004, Amnesty International wrote to the Minister of Justice to express the organisation’s concerns about the case, to request information about the criminal and disciplinary investigations which had been opened and to urge her to take action on the organisation’s recommendations.

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