[ Europe Report 2000 ]


Portuguese Republic

Head of state: Jorge Fernando Branco de Sampaio

Head of government: António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres

Capital: Lisbon

Population: 9.9 million

Official language: Portuguese

Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes

Prisoners continued to face cruel, inhuman and degrading conditions, and frequent acts of violence by prison staff, as well as other inmates, were reported. Allegations were made about ill-treatment and illegal detention by law enforcement officers and judicial inquiries were opened, or continued, in relation to a number of ill-treatment cases.


Prisons: a continuing ‘scandal’

Although investment in prisons increased and steps were taken to renovate some buildings and improve benefits and facilities, prisoners claimed conditions continued to constitute what President Jorge Sampaio had called a “real national scandal” the previous year. The allegations referred to severe overcrowding, poor standards of hygiene and medical neglect; continuing proliferation, in some places, of cockroaches, fleas and rats; the spread and fear of contagious diseases such as tuberculosis; an escalation in the numbers of prisoners with HIV and AIDS; and widespread drug addiction.

After a new inspection, the Ombudsman for Justice recognized that the authorities had made an “appreciable” effort to improve living and hygiene conditions during the previous two years, but stated that the general situation remained “as black or blacker than in 1996”, the year of his critical prison report, largely owing to the pressures caused by drug dependency and the rise in infectious diseases.

Some prisoners claimed they had been ill-treated by prison guards. Allegations were made by prisoners at Linhó (Sintra) that the prison governor and head of custodial staff seemed powerless to prevent beatings of inmates by guards “almost every day”. The prison authorities rejected the accusations, stressing the existence of “organized violence” by prisoners. In July, after one prisoner was transferred to a security wing and allegedly beaten by guards, about 200 prisoners in wing B of Linhó protested by refusing to eat. In another incident at Linhó, prisoners demanded to inspect the security wing after an inmate held for 30 days in a disciplinary cell had reportedly been subdued with baton beatings and tear gas; a visit was authorized. There were also allegations of ill-treatment of prisoners at Pinheiro da Cruz and Angra do Heroísmo prisons. A group of prisoners had earlier signed an open letter in which they described a climate of fear and ill-treatment at Pinheiro da Cruz. This was denied by the General Directorate of Prison Services.

-    António Palma, a prisoner at Pinheiro da Cruz, who was undergoing psychiatric treatment, was allegedly ill-treated in August when he refused to be locked into his cell at the end of the day. A group of between eight and 10 guards, accompanied by two dogs and armed with batons and a riot shield, reportedly beat him to the ground, leaving weals and abrasions across his back. He was taken to the prison infirmary and injected with medication, apparently against his will. Concern was expressed that the number of guards and the dogs and equipment brought in to subdue the prisoner was a use of disproportionate force. An inquiry was opened.


National Republican Guard unit accused
of ill-treatment

Allegations of ill-treatment by law enforcement officers were reported both before and after May, when the Regulations on the Material Conditions of Detention in Police Establishments came into force. Introducing the regulations, the Minister of Internal Administration expressed the belief that, while conditions for suspects in police custody had been a “frequent object of criticism by international and human rights institutions and organizations”, the situation had improved in recent years and “it is now important to ensure that it does not deteriorate”. The regulations, which affect both the Public Security Police (PSP) and the National Republican Guard (GNR), set out a large number of detailed requirements for improving conditions in police custody. They stipulate that all detainees must be treated with humanity and dignity and all arrests must be registered at the police station or command post.

-    A GNR infantry sergeant claimed in August that, despite the new regulations, ill-treatment of detainees was “virtually systematic” between May and July at a post in Anadia (Aveiro) which he had commanded for almost 18 years. He claimed that, after reporting ill-treatment to his immediate superior, as required by the new regulations, he had been transferred from the post and an inquiry had been opened into allegations that he had committed “illegal acts”. He described four cases in which he claimed detainees had been illegally detained or ill-treated at the post by a three-officer Criminal Investigation Unit (NIC). The sergeant claimed that no food or medical care had been provided to detainees, one of whom was suffering from eye, wrist, arm and back injuries as a result of beatings, and that other arrests had not been registered.

In November the General Inspectorate of Internal Administration (IGAI) stated that it had opened an inquiry into the sergeant’s specific allegations as well as into the general functioning of the NIC, owing to reports that the NIC had ill-treated and illegally arrested suspects. However, IGAI stated that the disciplinary proceedings being taken against the sergeant were in no way connected with the allegations he had made against the NIC.

-    Jorge Manuel da Conceição Simões, a former drug addict undergoing rehabilitation, complained that in May he was taken to the Anadia post after being arrested on suspicion of possessing drugs and beaten about the head and chest when he refused to sign a confession. He was later treated for his injuries at Anadia District Hospital. He claimed he had not taken drugs since February 1998 but that the GNR officers visited his workplace after he refused to sign the confession and reported that he had stolen to feed a drug habit. As a result he lost his job.


Alleged ill-treatment by PSP officers

There was concern that in some cases PSP officers had not only failed to register an arrest at the police station but had driven detainees to remote places in order to carry out ill-treatment.

-    Marco Fernandes, also called Marco Filipe, was known to police as a petty criminal. He claimed that one early morning in September, as he was standing with friends in a street in Funchal, Madeira, he saw two police officers from the Câmara de Lobos station. He attempted to flee but was caught and beaten about the head with a police radio. He was bundled into a car and driven to Cape Girão, several hundred feet above sea level. His head was covered and the officers held him at the top of the cliff, threatening to throw him over. He was then forced to crawl back to the car. While being driven away, his head, which was bleeding, was held out of the door and he was made to undress and clean away the blood at a well. He alleged he was almost strangled with a piece of iron and kicked in the mouth and stomach before being left to find his own way home. A piece of iron and a police radio were reportedly found later, the latter broken. Marco Fernandes received treatment for his injuries at the Hospital Cruz de Carvalho. He and his mother lodged a judicial complaint against the officers and judicial and disciplinary proceedings were opened. Now 19 years old, Marco Fernandes was one of the children from poor areas of the city, such as Câmara de Lobos, who were abused in 1991 by members of a paedophile ring. Since then a large number of inquiries into crimes of child abuse and paedophilia against street children have taken place in Madeira and have led to prosecutions, but an inquiry into police ill-treatment of the children was never pursued by the public prosecutor, despite confirmation by the Ombudsman’s Office that ill-treatment had occurred.



An inquiry by the criminal investigation department of the Lisbon public prosecutor’s office concluded without being able to establish that the death of Olívio Almada, whose body was discovered in the Tagus river in 1996, was directly connected with his arrest by PSP officers. However, it found that the officers, who had driven him away in a car without taking him to the police station or registering his arrest, had acted illegally, and they were committed for trial in November. Disciplinary procedures ordered against the officers by the PSP General Command were continuing.

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EUROPE - Highlights of Amnesty International Report 2000
Covering events from January to December 1999

As war spawned human rights atrocities in Chechnya and the international community struggled to establish lasting peace in Kosovo, in the rest of Europe, torture and ill-treatment by police -- often racially motivated -- continued to be the most widely reported human rights abuse.

The Russian military offensive in Chechnya and the intensified campaign of intimidation against Chechens in Moscow and elsewhere displayed a blatant disregard for international human rights and international humanitarian law. Atrocities were committed by both Russian soldiers and Chechen fighters. Russian soldiers allegedly tortured, raped and killed non-combatants, and detainees in "filtration camps" suffered horrific and routine abuse. Chechen fighters were alleged to have used civilians as "human-shields". In the face of international protests Russia adamantly refused the entry of independent observers to the region and would not permit an international investigation.

The scale of abuses against the ethnic Albanian population in Kosovo peaked during the NATO air strikes, and included unlawful killings, "disappearances", arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment. With the withdrawal of Serbian and Yugoslav forces from the province, Serbs, Roma and other ethnic minorities suffered human rights abuses in their turn. Despite the presence of a large peace-keeping force and a UN-led administration these abuses continued, partly due to insufficient resources and a failure to establish the rule of law.

Refugees and asylum seekers continued to suffer human rights violations. Ethnic Albanians from Kosovo who sought asylum in Macedonia often found the border closed in contravention of international refugee law. New amendments to asylum law in Hungary -- brought in to provide greater protection to applicants -- were circumvented by officials.

In England and Ireland the overall impact of the 1999 Immigration and Asylum Act and the 1999 Immigration Bill proved detrimental to refugees. The main party of the far right in Austria openly advocated a halt in immigration, alleging abuses of the asylum system.

Cruel and dangerous methods of restraint, including the deliberate blocking of breathing passages, were the subject of investigation in Switzerland and Belgium following deaths by asphyxiation during forcible deportation. In Hungary, asylum-seekers, including children, were held and sometimes ill-treated in detention centres, despite government statements to the contrary.

Reports of police abuse -- frequently racially motivated -- continued, with the perpetrators walking free. Intimidation and excessive force were frequently used by police in Bulgaria and torture in detention was linked to an alleged police protection racket in Moldova. In July, the European Court of Human Rights found France guilty of violating international standards on torture and fair trial. The United Kingdom received strong criticism from the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (ECPT) for its system of dealing with police ill-treatment.

Roma fell prey to prejudice yet again with reports ranging from verbal abuse and threats, to indiscriminate beatings and death. Particular problems were identified in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and Kosovo, with assaults often taking place against a background of vilification of Roma by sections of the media and public.

The number of reports of torture in Turkey exceeded those of the previous two years and several people reportedly died as a result of torture. The sentencing to death of Abdullah Öcalan raised fears that Turkey might resume executions after a 15-year moratorium. Turkey's acceptance as a candidate for European Union membership, conditional on human rights guarantees, brought hopes of reform.

There were further sectarian killings in Northern Ireland during negotiations over the implementation of the Multi Party Agreement. In March a Human Rights Commission was formed and began consultation over a bill of rights.

In June, Amnesty International urged the government of Spain to immediately revoke the laws under which terrorism suspects are detained. The Basque armed separatist group ETA announced that it was ending its indefinite cease-fire in November.

Prison conditions in Belarus, Italy, Russia and Portugal still fell below international minimum standards, often amounting to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and accompanied by acts of violence from prison staff and inmates.

The threat of imprisonment for conscientious objection to military service remained in several countries. In Greece the authorities were reported to have obstructed applications for conscientious objector status in some cases, leaving the applicant to be charged with insubordination and receive up to four years in prison. In Armenia, Latvia, Belarus, Macedonia and Russia there remained no civilian alternative to military service.

Amnesty international adopted as a prisoner of conscience in Turkey the former leader of the Human Rights Association, Akin Birdal. Six conscientious objectors in Finland -- who refused to carry out civilian service because of its punitive length -- were also considered prisoners of conscience. Other prisoners of conscience remained imprisoned in Belarus, Turkey and Russia.

Throughout Europe the worldwide trend to abolish the death penalty continued, with Turkmenistan and Lithuania commuting all their death sentences to life imprisonment. In a positive step, President Yeltsin of Russia commuted more than 700 death sentences. The ratification of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights -- a treaty providing for the total abolition of the death penalty-- by Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Slovakia, Turkmenistan and the UK was a welcome development.

Unfortunately, Armenia failed to approve the necessary domestic legislation for abolition. In Belarus, Tajikistan, the Ukraine and Uzbekistan executions continued.

The number of unresolved "disappearances" continued to be a major concern, particularly in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo where tens of thousands of people remain unaccounted for. There were also disturbing reports of the possible "disappearance" of political opponents in Turkey and Belarus.










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Europe Update
Selected events in Europe from January to May 2000

Chechnya -- From a mission held in March, the organization documented reports of the following methods of torture being used in the 'filtration camps' during the conflict: rape of male and female detainees, including children; the use of electric shocks and tear gas; beatings with hammers and clubs, and other torture methods including sawing off detainees' teeth and simultaneous beating around both ears to burst the ear-drums.

In April Amnesty International asked for an international Commission of Investigation to be established by the United Nations to provide the necessary resources and strong guarantees for a thorough, independent and transparent process of systematic collection of evidence.

Turkey -- The Turkish government coalition decided on 12 January 2000 to abide by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) request by halting the file of Abdullah Öcalan in the Office of the Prime Minister, instead of forwarding it to Parliament and the latter's Judicial Commission for a final decision on his execution. The Turkish government announced that they would review this decision should there be a renewal of violence by the PKK. Abdullah Öcalan's death sentence had been upheld by the Appeal Court on 25 November.

On 28 March the former president of the Human Rights Association IHD, Akïn Birdal, was re-imprisoned despite a medical report warning that his injuries are a danger to his life. Amnesty International again adopted him as a prisoner of conscience imprisoned for the peaceful expression of his views, and campaigned for his immediate and unconditional release. After having been closed for nearly three years, the IHD Diyarbakir branch could finally be re-opened on 19 April. Only 23 days later, the branch was again closed for three months.
On 19 and 20 February, three mayors of Kurdish cities were snatched in broad daylight and detained at Diyarbakir Gendarmerie Headquarters where they were tortured or ill-treated. The were released from prison on 28 February pending a trial in which they are charged with having supported the Kurdistan Worker's Party PKK.
On 17 January, Turkish security forces had an operation against the militant Islamist organization Hizbullah arresting hundreds of alleged members. Subsequently, some 60 dead bodies were excavated which were attributed to people abducted and/or killed by Hizbullah. Amnesty International called for comprehensive investigation into these killings. Reports show that Hizbullah acted in collusion with parts of the Turkish security forces in their fight against PKK. Amnesty International was concerned that some of those detained in the raid against Hizbullah were held in illegal detention for prolonged periods in which they were at risk of torture and ill-treatment.

Spain -- The end of ETA's indefinite cease-fire, which the Basque armed group had already declared the previous November, was marked in blood by the killing in January of a military officer, Pedro António Blanco García. It was followed by three more murders, including that of José Luis López de Lacalle, a journalist, pacifist and former political prisoner under General Franco as ETA pursued a mounting campaign against journalists. Amnesty International has repeatedly and unreservedly condemned the human rights abuses committed by the armed group. In April the National Court sentenced former Civil Guard general Enrique Rodriguez Galindo and former civil governor of Guipuzcoa Julen Elgorriaga to 71 years' imprisonment each in connection with the abduction and murder of two ETA members, José Antonio Lasa and José Ignacio Zabala in 1983. Three others were sentenced to prison terms between 67 and 69 years' imprisonment.

Portugal -- In May the UN Committee against Torture expressed concern at the "continuing number of deaths and ill-treatment arising out of contact by members of the public with the police" following an examination of Portugal's third periodic report. This was highlighted by the deaths of two men, Álvaro Rosa Cardoso and Paulo Silva, allegedly as a result of brutal police beatings. The decision by a judge to detain two officers in relation to the death of Cardoso, a Romani, was met with vociferous street protests by police officers throughout Portugal. Amnesty International was concerned by reports that some of the officers made death threats to the judge.

Italy -- In April 2000 the first sentences were issued in connection with the allegations that members of the Italian armed forces tortured, ill-treated and unlawfully killed Somalis in 1993 and 1994, while participating in a multinational peace-keeping operation. One former paratrooper was sentenced to 18 months' suspended imprisonment for abusing his authority and is potentially liable to pay 30 million lire to the victim, a Somali man who had been photographed while soldiers were in the act of attaching electrodes to his body. A second accused received a lower sentence after plea-bargaining.

Switzerland -- The appeal of convicted war criminal Fulgence Niyonteze came under examination in May. Niyonteze, a former local government official in Rwanda, was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1999 after a military court in Lausanne found him guilty of a number of crimes, including murder, incitement to murder and war crimes, in the context of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

Kyrgyzstan -- In March the US State Department called into question Kyrgyzstans commitment to democracy after law enforcement officers reportedly used excessive force to break up peaceful demonstrations over irregularities in the February and March parliamentary elections. The elections were heavily criticized by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The allegedly politically motivated arrest of Felix Kulov -- the chairman of the opposition Ar-Namys party and former Minister of National Security -- led to further demonstrations and confrontations with law enforcement authorities.

Tajikistan -- 21-year old Dilfuza Numonova was sentenced to death on 18 January, as was 22-year old Khakimbek Khomidov on 30 March. Dilfuza Numonova stated that her confession to murder was extracted under duress. She also claimed that in prison she was forced to have an abortion. Under Tajik law pregnant women may not be executed.

Turkmenistan -- On 25 February Nurberdi Nurmamedov, co-chair of the opposition movement Agzybirlik, was arrested and sentenced to five years imprisonment for what Amnesty International believes to be solely for his peaceful criticism of the President.

Uzbekistan -- Six men sentenced to death for their part in the February 1999 bombings in Tashkent were executed January 2000. Conversely, the death sentences of the two young musicians, Arsen Arutyunyan and Danis Sirazhev, were reversed to 15 years' imprisonment.

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