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Map of Portugal (the Portuguese Republic)

AI REPORT 1997
PORTUGAL


There were further allegations of torture and ill-treatment by law enforcement officers and several deaths in custody were reported. Judicial inquiries into such allegations, whether by military or civilian courts, were slow. The trials of several law enforcement officers accused of ill-treatment were held during the year.

    In January, Jorge Sampaio, the former Mayor of Lisbon, was elected President, succeeding a fellow Socialist Party member, Mario Soares, who stood down after serving the maximum permitted period.

    In February, the government appointed the first Inspector General of a new institution which could play a major role in promoting respect for human rights. The General Inspectorate of Internal Administration (igai) was created under Decree Law 227/95 of 11 September 1995, modified by Decree Law 154/96 of 31 August 1996. It is especially charged with the supervision of the activities of law enforcement forces "in order to defend the rights of citizens and to achieve a better and quicker implementation of disciplinary justice in situations of major social importance". igai is part of the Ministry of the Interior and its mandate covers all the Ministry's law enforcement agencies, notably the Public Security Police (psp) and the paramilitary Republican National Guard (gnr), but not the Judiciary Police which is responsible to the Ministry of Justice.

    The findings of the 1995 visit of inspection by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the reply of the Portuguese Government were published in November. The Committee's report concluded: "A significant proportion of the persons interviewed alleged that they had been ill-treated while in police custody". It further found that almost none of the core recommendations on safeguards against ill-treatment made following its visit of inspection in 1992 had been implemented and did not feel able to modify its earlier statement that the ".ill-treatment of persons in police custody was a relatively common phenomenon".

    There were further allegations of physical and verbal abuse by law enforcement officers. The most common complaints were of kicking, punching and beatings with truncheons. People across the entire spectrum of Portuguese society, including a high proportion of people of non-European ethnic origin, complained of such treatment. There were also reports of an illegal shooting and of the killing of a detainee.

    In May, the Ombudsman, Dr José Menéres Pimentel, publicly recognized that a worrying proportion of the complaints he had received alleged police violence.

    In February, four workers were injured, one seriously, when psp officers used batons to evict workers occupying a factory facing closure in Santo Tirso. An inquiry by the Ombudsman concluded that some officers had exceeded the rules and, for revenge, had assaulted citizens with batons. The Minister of the Interior questioned the use of batons against the workers, who, in his view, were isolated and not aggressive, but decided that it would be unwarranted to punish the individual officers because they had not received adequate training.

    António Guerreiro, a magistrate in the Criminal Investigation Department (diap) of the Public Prosecutor's office, brought a judicial complaint against four gnr officers. In December 1995, he was stopped by the officers while driving into the town of Cascais. He claimed they punched and kicked him, before searching and handcuffing him. He stated that he was a magistrate and asked to contact a colleague. This was refused. One officer insulted him and suggested that he must be involved in drug dealing to be driving a car such as his. He was taken to the gnr post and threatened before being taken to hospital. He was later charged with refusing to present identity documents on demand and insulting an officer. The duty magistrate released him and an investigation was opened.

    In April, Francisco Monteiro, a black African, was shot in the stomach by a man in plain clothes. Eye-witnesses reportedly claimed that he was standing in the doorway of a bar when two men got out of a car and assaulted him. One of them then shot him. They maintained that the two assailants were off-duty psp officers and it was confirmed that the car at the scene belonged to a psp officer. The commanding officer of the psp was reported as saying that the incident occurred "during an argument between the victim and a white man". Both diap and the Ombudsman opened inquiries.

    During the year, Amnesty International received several reports of killings or deaths in police custody. In May, Carlos Rosa was killed while in custody in the gnr post in Sacavém. A gnr sergeant confessed to the killing, claiming that he had accidentally shot him in the head during an interrogation and, in panic, cut off his head to prevent identification. Two weeks later the body was found in a ditch and the head buried in a field. Following an inconclusive first autopsy, a second examination concluded that the death was caused by shooting at close range followed by decapitation. A judicial inquiry was opened and the court committed the sergeant to preventive detention. In December, he was charged with aggravated homicide. Six other soldiers from Sacavém were allowed to remain at liberty.

    In January, the civilian court in Almada acquitted six gnr soldiers charged with assaulting a local butcher, Paulo Portugal, in 1991 (see Amnesty International Reports 1993 and 1996). Allegations by the gnr officers that Paulo Portugal had assaulted them were found to be groundless and he was acquitted. Criminal proceedings against Paulo Portugal for insulting behaviour and refusal to obey orders were closed after an amnesty.

    In September, the trial in Vila Real of Joaquim Teixeira, a computer specialist, for assault of a psp officer, was adjourned until December. At the request of the defence, the judge again postponed the opening of his trial pending the decision of the Appeal Court on the case brought by Joaquím Teixeira against the psp officer. The judge agreed that the two cases should be tried together. Until December, the allegations had been the subject ot two parallel investigations. Joaquim Teixeira alleged that he and a friend had been assaulted by the psp officer in 1995 (see Amnesty International Report 1996). The psp claimed that Joaquim Teixeira had assaulted the officers. The prosecutor in the trial was replaced after it was discovered that he had not asked the local hospital for the medical certificate which recorded the injuries inflicted on Joaquim Teixeira while he was in police custody.

    Amnesty International urged the authorities to ensure full and prompt investigations into all allegations of torture and ill-treatment. It requested information on the progress of judicial and administrative inquiries into such allegations. In 1996, it noted a welcome increase in the information supplied to the organization by the authorities, in particular by the newly created office of the igai, and by the Ombudsman.

    In December, Amnesty International delegates visited Portugal and held talks with the President of the Republic and senior government ministers. The delegates discussed means of increasing access to the judicial system for victims of physical assault by law enforcement officers, improving safeguards for detainees and the urgent need for substantial improvements in the training of officers. The government gave encouraging assurances of legislative and administrative reforms to take place in 1997. The delegates stressed that these assurances only constituted the beginning of an urgently required reform program to fight human rights violations in Portugal.

 


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