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AI REPORT 1998:
PORTUGAL

(This report covers the period January-December 1997)

Law enforcement and prison officers were the subject of fresh allegations of ill-treatment. Judicial inquiries into such allegations and into a number of deaths that occurred in or immediately sub-sequent to police custody in previous years, were slow. The trials of several law enforcement officers accused of ill-treatment and of homicide were held.

In March, in the context of an inter-party agreement to revise the Constitution, the two major political parties proposed an amendment which would have allowed people to be extradited who were accused of crimes which carried the death penalty under the law of the requesting state. However, the amendment was abandoned. Under the revised Constitution, approved in September, extradition is not allowed for crimes which carry the death penalty in the law of the requesting state.

In November the UN Committee against Torture considered Portugal's second periodic report on its implementation of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The Committee welcomed several new penal and administrative measures taken by the government to safeguard against torture and ill-treatment by law enforcement officers. However, it expressed its “grave concern about recent cases of ill-treatment and torture and, in some instances, of suspicious deaths allegedly involving law enforcement officers. as well as an apparent absence of appropriate reaction by the competent authorities.” The Committee urged the government to make greater attempts to bridge the gap between the law and its application, to apply appropriate punishment where due, and to clarify the laws governing torture or ill-treatment by law enforcement officers in order to ensure that inquiries were “automatically and systematically” opened into all cases where there was reason to believe torture had occurred.

There were further allegations of ill-treatment by law enforcement and prison officers. In February Vítor Manuel Santos was arrested in a bar by officers of the Public Security Police after he spilled beer over them. He complained that the officers beat him in transit to, and inside, the police station in the town of Vila Franca de Xira. A medical report from the hospital he visited the next day stated that he was in a state of great anxiety and that he repeated constantly that he had been assaulted by the police. He was later found shot through the head in the family vegetable plot. An autopsy report concluded that the cause of death was suicide, but press reports stated that marks on his body indicated he could have been beaten shortly before his death. A disciplinary inquiry, carried out immediately afterwards by the General Inspectorate of Internal Administration (IGAI), found no evidence of assault by the police officers, and affirmed that, contrary to reports, the autopsy had not discovered any external signs of violence. IGAI also stated that Vítor Santos had only been held for 15 minutes at the police station. The officers were nevertheless disciplined for falsely stating that they had been responding to a call when they had in fact been in the bar as customers. The judicial inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death was closed in August, but reopened by the public prosecutor of Vila Franca de Xira in November. The prosecutor was reported to have decided that certain avenues of inquiry were still to be explored.

In June Belmiro Santana reported that he had been severely beaten by five prison guards in Caxias Prison. He claimed he had been kicked and beaten on the arms and body, that two of his teeth had been broken and that the rings on his pierced nipples and navel had been torn out leaving deep gashes in the flesh. He also claimed he had been left in solitary confinement, without medical treatment, for the rest of the night. He was subsequently taken to S. Francisco Xavier Hospital before being transferred back to the prison infirmary. An inquiry into the incident was opened by the General Prison Services Directorate and was continuing at the end of the year.

A number of judicial inquiries relating to alleged ill-treatment and deaths in custody in previous years remained opened; in some cases officers were tried. Judicial and disciplinary inquiries continued into the death of Olívio Almada, whose body was found in the Tagus river in 1996 following his arrest by police officers. His arrest had not been registered at any police station. Inquiries also continued into the death of Carlos Manuel Gonçalves Araújo, who died in 1996, shortly after being taken into custody of a gunshot wound sustained in the course of arrest. According to IGAI, disciplinary proceedings were being taken against a police officer for unjustifiably assaulting Carlos Araújo and two other men while they were held at Évora police station for attempted robbery.

In September the trial opened of seven officers of the National Republican Guard (GNR) in connection with the killing of Carlos Rosa (see Amnesty International Report 1997). Defence lawyers acting for the sergeant accused of shooting, beheading and concealing the remains of the detainee attempted to reduce the charge against the officer from murder to one of manslaughter. However, in December the court found the sergeant guilty of murder and sentenced him to a total of 17 years' imprisonment: 12 for the killing itself, and the remainder for breach of official duty and for concealing and mutilating the corpse. A second GNR officer was sentenced to six years' imprisonment for breach of official duty and assisting with concealment of the body, and a third to a prison term of two and a half years, suspended for five years. Four other GNR officers were acquitted.

The trial of Joaquim Teixeira and of two police officers concluded in November (see Amnesty International Reports 1996 and 1997). Joaquim Teixeira alleged he had been assaulted in 1995 by the officers, who in turn alleged that he had assaulted them. Unable to decide who had initiated the dispute between the computer technician and the police officers, the judge found both Joaquim Teixeira and one of the officers guilty of common criminal assault and sentenced them to a fine.

Amnesty International urged the authorities to ensure full and prompt investigations into all allegations of ill-treatment and into deaths in or immediately after police custody, and sought information from the authorities on the progress of judicial and disciplinary inquiries into such allegations. In many cases replies were

received regarding the status of inquiries.

In May the organization launched an urgent appeal against the proposed amendment to the Constitution regarding extradition to countries where the death penalty could be applied.

In information submitted to the UN Committee against Torture, Amnesty International raised its concerns not only about specific cases, but also about the slowness of judicial procedures investigating allegations of torture and ill-treatment, the questionable effectiveness of that section of the penal code relating to torture and ill-treatment, and the nominal sentences given in those exceptional cases in which offenders were found guilty.


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