Brazil has evolved when it comes to incorporating human rights norms into police training and practice. This affirmation was made by the Delegate of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for Police and Security Forces in Latin America and the Caribbean, Erich Meier.
Meier considers that when the theme of human rights was introduced into Brazilian police training in 1998, a “taboo” was shattered in police circles.
“Nowadays, the human rights question is beginning to be accepted by Brazilian police as part of their function as a public service organization directed towards the community.”
Military Police representatives from the 26 Brazilian states and the Federal District met in Brasília for two days, last week, to discuss the integration of humanitarian principles in police training.
For the Commander of the Minas Gerais Special Tactical Operations Group, Major Vladimir, the inclusion of human rights as a required subject has produced results in serving the public.
“All our courses now include the subject of human rights applied to the police officer’s daily routine,” the Commander pointed out.
The Coordinator of the ICRC in Brazil, Silvia Backes, believes there has been substantial progress in police behavior.
“In property restitutions, the police have acted without the use of force, using negotiation as the main instrument for solving the problem.”
Michel Minnig, a Swiss who is the ICRC Representative to Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, and Paraguay, thinks, however, that it will still take some time for human rights to become a part of police force doctrine.
“The rules will strengthen all the humanitarian and human rights principles within police forces. The state representatives in Brazil are determined to promote a greater integration.”
The ICRC’s project for the Diffusion of Human Rights Norms and Humanitarian Principles within Police Services has already administered 59 specialized courses in Brazil. 1,020 police instructors have been trained since the program was implanted in Brazil in 1998.
Minister Nilmário Miranda, of the Special Secretariat for Human Rights, declared in late May that there is a growing number of court convictions, trials, and investigations involving police and government officials accused of committing the crime of torture.
“There are currently 240 people convicted by lower courts in Brazil of crimes of torture,” he informed.
In his opinion this is already an indication that the Brazilian judicial system is not unresponsive to the problem.
The declaration was a response to a report issued in London by Amnesty International (AI), condemning the existence of torture, assassinations committed by police, and violence against rural workers and Indians in Brazil.
The Minister admitted there is still a long way to go, but he argues that significant progress has been made in recent years.
“The federalization of crimes against human rights, a measure in the Judicial Reform that gives federal courts jurisdiction to try and judge crimes against human rights, is already a victory,” he said.
Another important item, in his opinion, is the homologation (final approval) of 82% of Indian territories in Brazil over the years.
“In the year and a half since this Administration took office, 33 territories were homologated,” he recalled.
Another measure that the federal government plans to adopt by 2006, through the Special Secretariat for Human Rights, is the Police Auditors program, in partnership with the European Community, which will contribute US$ 6.35 million (20 million reais) to the project.
The Auditors Offices are available for citizens to denounce crimes. The purpose of the project is the perfection of external mechanisms to control police violence by strengthening and disseminating the work done by Auditors Offices throughout Brazil.
Amnesty International considers the Disarmament Statute edited by the government to control the possession and sale of small arms a first step in the campaign against violence.
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