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February 6, 2017
Fernando Ribeiro Delgado, Former Senior Clinical Instructor, Becomes Scholar in Residence at NYU Law
Posted by Cara Solomon
As the spring semester gets underway at HRP, we’re already missing the fellowship and expertise of one of our colleagues: Fernando Ribeiro Delgado, JD ’08, Senior Clinical Instructor and Lecturer on Law, is now a Scholar in Residence at New York University School of Law.
Simply put, this is a big loss for us. Fernando is an expert on criminal justice in Brazil, which has one of the world’s worst records on mass incarceration. His clinical work went wide and deep; his teams used strategies ranging from litigation to fact-finding to negotiating with government officials to launching media campaigns.
Beyond the rigor and innovation that was the hallmark of Fernando’s work, there was another distinguishing factor: it was always collaborative. Throughout his seven years at the Clinic, he worked closely with local partners whom he considered not just colleagues but mentors: Justiça Global, Serviço Ecumênico de Militância nas Prisões, Pastoral Carcerária, and Comissão Justiça e Paz. He also nurtured relationships with prisoners’ families, corrections officials, and members of the media.
Most importantly, as described in the Harvard Law Bulletin last year, Fernando treated people who were incarcerated the way he treated everyone else: with kindness.
At NYU, Fernando will explore the link between state violence and corruption, a link he first documented with Justiça Global in the high-profile, book-length report, “São Paulo under Extortion: Corruption, Organized Crime, and Institutional Violence in May 2006.” That joint report, the culmination of a five-year investigation, explored the role of corruption in a series of coordinated uprisings in detention centers and attacks on police and public buildings that left 43 state officials and hundreds of civilians dead. The report also documented the wave of reprisal attacks by police, including extrajudicial killings of people they suspected of having arrest records—in many cases profiling victims’ youth, skin color, tattoos and presence on the streets of a poor neighborhood at night.
During his time in the Clinic, Fernando tackled a range of criminal justice issues in Brazil. His clinical team contributed comparative and international law research to a workshop that culminated with federal prosecutors filing the first-ever criminal charges for dictatorship-era human rights crimes. A case he argued before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (the Court) led to an investigation into juvenile justice system abuses, one which ultimately brought down an alleged corruption ring at the highest levels of state government.
He spent the great majority of his time, though, addressing rampant over-incarceration and abuse in prisons. Continue Reading…
September 22, 2015
Inter-American Court of Human Rights Summons Brazil to Answer for Wave of Violence and Deaths at Aníbal Bruno Prison (Curado Complex)
Brazilian state will be “in the dock” before the Organization of American States (OAS) body at the end of September
September 22, 2015 – After three major riots and at least sixteen deaths (including one police officer killed and one prisoner quartered) within the last year, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has taken the rare step of summoning the Brazilian state to a public hearing at the end of the month to answer for recurring violations at the Aníbal Bruno Prison Complex (renamed Curado Complex), one of the largest prisons in Latin America.
The Court has ordered the Brazilian state to protect the life and integrity of prisoners, staff, and visitors of the notorious prison since May 2014, when it analyzed hundreds of complaints of abuse presented by a coalition of human rights organizations. At the hearing—set to take place on September 28 and be broadcast live from Costa Rica at 1:00 p.m. EST on the Court website (http://www.corteidh.or.cr) the coalition will present new evidence demonstrating the continuation of grave abuses at the Complex, including decapitations, gang rapes, beatings, and knife attacks.
Aníbal Bruno Prison has been under international scrutiny since August 2011, when the facility started being monitored by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Since then, the coalition has documented chronic abuses, such as the presence of the so-called chaveiros: prisoners who effectively carry out official functions in the cellblocks, and are granted the authority to maintain order and discipline in the facility, often through the use of violence. A window onto the crisis of the Brazilian prison system, Aníbal Bruno incarcerates more than 7000 men in space designated for fewer than 1900, with an insufficient number of officers to adequately ensure security. The State has also been negligent regarding the conditions of human security pertaining to state agents.
The coalition of human rights groups responsible for the case is comprised of the Catholic Prison Ministry (Pastoral Carcerária), Ecumenical Service of Advocacy in Prisons (Serviço Ecumênico de Militância nas Prisões – SEMPRI), Global Justice (Justiça Global), and the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School.
In February of this year, the coalition released the filings from the international case online in order to bring attention to the situation of the Aníbal Bruno Prison Complexo. For more information, please visit: http://arquivoanibal.weebly.com.
Corte Interamericana de Direitos Humanos Exige Explicações ao Brasil sobre Onda de Violência e Mortes no Presídio Aníbal Bruno (Complexo do Curado)
Estado Brasileiro estará “no banco do réus” no final de setembro perante órgão da Organização dos Estados Americanos (OEA)
22 de Setembro de 2015 – Após três rebeliões e ao menos 16 (dezesseis) óbitos (incluindo um policial morto e um preso esquartejado) no último ano, a Corte Interamericana de Direitos Humanos tem tomado a rara iniciativa de convocar o Estado brasileiro a uma audiência pública no final do mês para responder sobre as violações reiteradas no Complexo Prisional Aníbal Bruno (renomeado Complexo do Curado), um dos maiores presídios da América Latina. Continue Reading…
June 29, 2015
Posted by Fernando Ribeiro Delgado
The coalition of civil society representatives in the Aníbal Bruno (Curado) Prison litigation before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has issued a statement urging the government of Pernambuco, Brazil, to rescind its prohibition on the use of cameras during prison inspections. The camera ban has impeded the collection of evidence of human rights abuses at the prison.
The prohibition was first enforced just a few months after the coalition’s publication of the case files of the Aníbal Bruno litigation this past February. The case files—partially redacted to preserve privacy, security, and investigatory integrity—provide an alarming picture of chronic violence, torture, lack of access to healthcare, and arbitrary detention at the notorious prison. Photographic evidence is vital to documenting the realities of the Aníbal Bruno Complex, which incarcerates nearly 7000 men in space designated for roughly 2000.
This is not the first time the coalition has faced a camera ban in Pernambuco. In 2012, a similar prohibition hindered efforts to gather evidence in numerous cases, including that of a severely injured Aníbal prisoner who reported being raped by officers.
Prison administrators lifted that ban in 2013, after the coalition used drawings by a clinical student to publicly expose abuses at Aníbal Bruno.
The civil society coalition litigating the case is comprised of Pastoral Carcerária (Catholic Prison Ministry), Serviço Ecumênico de Militância nas Prisões (Ecumenical Service of Advocacy in Prisons), Justiça Global (Global Justice), and the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School.
Read the coalition’s full statement, which was released last Friday, International Day in Support of Victims of Torture (translated from Portuguese):
June 26, 2015
After photos revealed torture practiced by United States personnel at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, authorities appeared more concerned with obscuring than responding. They prohibited cameras. They offered amnesty to those who handed over other photographs, later refusing to make them public. They did not prosecute any high level official, but they publicly exposed the name of the soldier who turned in the embarrassing evidence, effectively condemning him to fear reprisals.
This Friday, we remember the International Day in Support of Torture Victims repudiating this type of inverted logic in Brazil. Since May 18, members of our coalition of human rights organizations have been forbidden from entering with cameras at the Aníbal Bruno Prison Complex (officially renamed “Complexo do Curado”) in Recife. The coalition—composed of the Pastoral Carcerária [Catholic Prison Ministry], Serviço Ecumênico de Militância nas Prisões [Ecumenical Service of Advocacy in Prisons], Justiça Global [Global Justice] and the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard University—has already met twice with high-level Pernambuco government officials without being able to reverse this prohibition.
Photography is explicitly provided for in the United Nations Istanbul Protocol, an internationally recognized methodology for documenting torture cases. Resolution No. 1 of February 7, 2013, of the National Council on Criminal and Penitentiary Policy determines that “the use audiovisual and photographic recording instruments is permitted … by … civil society, which serve the function of monitoring the penitentiary system and defending human rights, with the purpose of informing reports on inspection, monitoring and visits to prison establishments.” The government insisted on the ban anyway.
Aníbal Bruno Complex is one of the main symbols of the crisis of the Brazilian prison system. It recently underwent three rebellions. It incarcerates nearly 7,000 men in space designated for approximately 2,000 and has an extremely reduced number of staff working in precarious conditions. Over the past four years, our coalition sent hundreds of complaints of violence and torture, denial of access to healthcare and other abuses in the Complex to the Organization of American States (OAS).
In light of this scenario, on May 22, 2014, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights of the OAS determined that the State protect the life and integrity of prisoners, staff and visitors of the Aníbal Bruno Complex. In February 2015, facing a continued lack of sufficient action by the state, we gathered the hundreds of complaints sent to the OAS about the Complex, edited the documents to ensure the anonymity of those involved, and made the information public on arquivoanibal.weebly.com. Shortly after, we were forbidden from using cameras.
We are not the only ones being censored after revealing abuses in the Complex. We were told by Pernambuco authorities that the State Mechanism to Prevent and Combat Torture would be subject to the camera ban, even though State Law 14.863 guarantees the right of members of that prison monitoring body to “make records using audiovisual resources, respecting the privacy of those involved.” Prison officers have also reported feeling pressured not to use cameras to document unlawfulness at the public institutions in which they serve.
This is not the first time we have dealt with obstructions to our work. Coalition members have been working with other organizations in international cases concerning various notorious prisons in the country, including in Maranhão (Pedrinhas), Espírito Santo (CASCUVI), Rondônia (Urso Branco), Rio de Janeiro (Polinter) and São Paulo (Araraquara). We have always obtained clear jurisprudence from the Court on the duty of the state to grant full access to human rights monitors, as evidenced, for example, in resolutions on the Urso Branco and Araraquara prisons.
Pernambuco authorities themselves previously imposed a ban on the use of cameras after the OAS convened a meeting on the Complex Aníbal Bruno in November 2012. The prohibition caused serious harms. For example, we were unable to photographically document the case of a prisoner full of bodily injuries who reported being raped with broom stick by prison officers. We also could not record testimony concerning various other crucial complaints, including about corruption. We had to produce handmade sketches to try to continue portraying the reality of the Complex. The ban was overturned by the Pernambuco authorities only after we exposed these drawings at a public hearing in 2013.
There is no way to hide such glaring problems. It is better to opt for transparency. Only it can transform an abusive, chaotic and corrupt prison system.
Serviço Ecumênico de Militância nas Prisões (SEMPRI) [Ecumenical Service of Advocacy in Prisons]
Pastoral Carcerária do Estado de Pernambuco [Catholic Prison Ministry of the State of Pernambuco]
Pastoral Carcerária Nacional [National Catholic Prison Ministry]
Global Justice [Justiça Global]
International Human Rights Clinic, Harvard University
December 17, 2014
Posted by Fernando Ribeiro Delgado
For decades, human rights advocates have sought an end to the humiliating state practice of strip searching prison visitors in Pernambuco, Brazil, the state housing the notorious Aníbal Bruno Prison Complex. Yesterday, responding to the Aníbal order of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and to a growing national movement against the degrading searches, the Secretariat of Development and Human Rights at last banned the procedures through Administrative Order 258/2014. The order classifies as “humiliating, inhuman or degrading,” all searches that involve “total or partial nudity; any conduct that entails the introduction of objects into the bodily cavities of the persons searches; the use of dogs or sniffer animals, even if they are trained for that end;” and/or “manual contact with the intimate parts of the person being searched.”
The prohibition should benefit an estimated 30,000 families, applying to all detention centers in the state. Until recently, Pernambuco subjected nearly all prison visitors—often including children, elderly persons, and persons with disabilities—to invasive, degrading searches involving nudity and manual inspection of intimate body parts. Women and girls were most frequently subjected to the practice.
The ban is a milestone in decades of local struggle by the Serviço Ecumênico de Militância nas Prisões (Ecumenical Service of Advocacy in Prisons) and the Pastoral Carcerária (Catholic Prison Ministry), among others. The civil society coalition which successfully sought an Inter-American Court order (para. 20) prohibiting humiliating searches includes those two groups as well as Justiça Global (Global Justice) and the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School.
A judge in Recife, Pernambuco, had issued a temporary ban on humiliating searches in Greater Recife this past April, two months after the civil society coalition sought the inter-American order. Yesterday’s prohibition on humiliating searches is more expansive, containing no temporal limit and applying to all Pernambuco prisons. It provides for searches to be done “preserving the honor and dignity of the human person,” and calls for the use of metal detectors and other measures to replace the old procedures. According to 2012 data from São Paulo, only 0.02% of 3.5 million humiliating searches yielded drugs or cell phones.
In September 2014, a resolution of the National Council on Crime and Penitentiary Policy recommended a ban on humiliating searches across Brazil. However, Bill 7764/2014, abolishing humiliating searches of prison visitors nationwide, is still pending in Congress.
December 5, 2014
Earlier this week, prosecutors took the extraordinary step of filing for judicial measures to decarcerate, reduce overcrowding, and ensure adequate healthcare at the notorious Aníbal Bruno (Curado) Prison Complex in Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil. The request for interdição parcial (partial interdiction) of the pre-trial center cites Inter-American Commission and Court of Human Rights precautionary and provisional measures, respectively, as key motivators. The civil society coalition responsible for seeking and litigating these inter-American protective measures since 2011 is comprised of the Pastoral Carcerária (Catholic Prison Ministry), the Serviço Ecumênico de Militância nas Prisões (Ecumenical Service of Advocacy in Prisons), Justiça Global (Global Justice), and the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School.
Aníbal Bruno is one of the largest prisons in Latin America, and among the most abusive; it detains nearly 7,000 men in space officially designated for roughly 2,000. According to the prosecutors, “[t]he situation of overpopulation and overcrowding [at Aníbal Bruno Prison] runs counter to the model contemplated in the American Convention on Human Rights (Pact of San José, Costa Rica) adopted 11/22/1969 and which Brazil ratified by means of Decree n. 678, with force of law in our State since 11/25/1992.”
Prosecutors requested 11 measures. Among them are limits on new entries to Aníbal Bruno Prison and transfers of qualifying prisoners out to halfway detention facilities (regime semiaberto), house arrest, or electronic monitoring. Prosecutors further asked for a daily computerized accounting of healthcare needs and treatment dates, as well as judicial review of any inability to schedule or receive medical attention. The filing also requests monthly monitoring meetings involving a host of institutions.
“We welcome the partial interdiction request as an important step in the right direction, though it falls well short of what is required, given that Aníbal Bruno Prison is fully, not partially, unfit for human habitation,” said Clinical Instructor Fernando Ribeiro Delgado.
The Pernambuco Prosecutor’s Office (Ministério Público) previously relied on the work of the civil society coalition in a 2012 inquiry into abuse at the prison. The Office noted then that, “if it were not for the courage and determination of [coalition] members, nothing that was here collected, such as hard-hitting evidence of practices of torture and ill-treatment, whether physical or psychological, would exist.”
Judge Luiz Gomes da Rocha Neto, responsible for evaluating the partial interdiction request, said he would make a statement in response today.
UPDATE: The judge confirmed receipt of the filing on December 5 and stated that the government would be given a short window to reply before he makes his decision. He also announced a future judicial inspection of Aníbal Bruno in light of the prosecutors’ request.
August 21, 2014
Posted by Cara Solomon
One of Brazil’s biggest daily newspapers quoted Clinical Instructor Fernando Ribeiro Delgado this past Sunday in an in-depth cover story on criminal code reform. The article in the Folha de São Paulo presents perspectives on a proposal gaining steam before congress that would harden criminal sentencing and close off several avenues for early release.
Delgado warns that Brazil is “following the path of failed crime policies,” drawing reference to U.S. “war on crime” laws that produced skyrocketing incarceration rates, a comparison he discusses further in a companion piece that ran in the Folha the same day. Delgado points to one prison in particular, Aníbal Bruno, as “a symbol of the catastrophe of mass incarceration underway in Brazil.” Though officially designed to detain some 1500 men, Aníbal Bruno Prison now commonly holds over 6000.
The Folha piece has an entire subsection based on a 2013 brief co-authored by the Clinic in the Aníbal Bruno Prison case, which is currently before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
The Clinic has been working for the past four years with a civil society coalition in Brazil to push for widespread reform in Aníbal Bruno Prison and beyond. This past May, the Inter-American Court issued its first legally binding resolution in the Aníbal Bruno case, ordering Brazil to take provisional measures to protect the life, personal integrity, and health of all persons at the prison. The order also mandates steps to reduce over-crowding and end the routine practice of strip searching family visitors at the notorious pre-trial detention center. The coalition is currently focusing efforts on monitoring the implementation of the order. A first set of periodic reports are due to the Court in the coming months, and a meeting between the parties and state agencies is scheduled for August 28 in Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil.
May 2, 2012
Posted by Susan Farbstein
In the forthcoming issue of the New York Review of Books, Nadine Gordimer writes about two disturbing pieces of legislation under consideration by the South African parliament: the Media Tribunal and the Protection of State Information Bill (or so-called “Secrecy Bill”). Both would significantly curtail freedom of expression and access to information. Nearly twenty years after the end of apartheid, the acts are eerily reminiscent of the legal architecture that upheld the apartheid system itself—laws banning political parties, newspapers and books, and advocacy of political, economic, and social change.
If the Media Tribunal is established, journalists will be required to inform it about topics that they plan to investigate or write about; the Tribunal will then have the power to determine whether these subjects pose a threat to state security. However, under a new plan recently proposed by the Press Freedom Commission, a compromise seems more likely. The Commission has recommended a system of “independent co-regulation” between the public and press, without involvement of political parties or state officials, which may mitigate some concerns raised by critics of the Tribunal.
The Secrecy Bill may be the greater threat. It has received heavy criticism from South African civil society and media, and would impose significant prison sentences on those who expose corruption in government and industry. It lacks a public interest defense, meaning that journalists or whistle-blowers could be imprisoned for up to 25 years for sharing information deemed classified by the government, even in the face of a compelling public interest such as exposing corruption or malfeasance. In addition, the Bill will insulate various intelligence agencies from public scrutiny, ensuring that ordinary constitutional checks and balances will not apply to the intelligence services.
The powerful Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), a traditional ANC ally, is strongly opposed to the Bill, as is Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who has said that it “makes the state answerable only to the state.” The final hearing on the Bill is set for May 17th. If passed into law, expect to see a Constitutional Court case challenging the Bill in the near future.
In many ways, this legislation contradicts the founding ideals that the ANC promised to a new South Africa. Should the Secrecy Bill be enacted into law, former Constitutional Court Justice Albie Sachs’ warning may prove disturbingly prescient: “There is no guarantee that somebody who is a freedom fighter, who is willing to sacrifice his life for freedom, will not violate the rights of others when he takes over power.”
August 12, 2011
Posted by Fernando Ribeiro Delgado
On August 4, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights officially called on Brazil to take all steps necessary to protect the life, personal integrity, and health of prisoners in Aníbal Bruno prison and reduce over-crowding at the pre-trial center, one of largest prison complexes in Latin America and among Brazil’s most violent. This is the first time Aníbal Bruno prison has come under international sanction. The measures were sought this past June by a coalition of human rights groups including the Catholic Prison Ministry (Pastoral Carcerária), the Ecumenical Service of Advocacy in Prisons (Serviço Ecumênico de Militância nas Prisões), Global Justice (Justiça Global), and the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School.
Starting in 2010, the Clinic and its partner organizations began gathering evidence of 55 violent deaths occurring in the prison since 2008, the vast majority of them homicides. Joint fact-finding visits documented systematic torture and severe medical neglect as well. The coalition reported these abuses to state authorities—as had occurred many times before—but little was done to address the prison’s problems. The request for precautionary measures to the Inter-American Commission was filed this past June, as the death toll continued to rise.
The coalition’s filing sought measures to reduce rampant violence within the facility, provide health services to gravely ill prisoners, and promote long-term reforms that would stem excessive pre-trial incarceration, improve conditions of detention, and tackle corruption. Brazil has until August 24 to inform the Commission of its efforts to comply with the decision.
Located in one of Brazil’s tourism capitals, Recife, Pernambuco state, the Aníbal Bruno prison gained national notoriety in 2008 when the facility was designated by a congressional inquiry as one of the top ten worst detention centers in the country. Inhuman detention conditions persist today. Aníbal Bruno prison is currently at 334 percent capacity, with over 4,800 prisoners crammed into space designed to hold 1,448. In its decision, the Commission sought from Brazil “a substantive reduction in the overpopulation of persons deprived of liberty [in Aníbal Bruno],” among other steps.
During their inspections, coalition members found evidence of systematic torture, including signs that some prisoners had been partially skinned and had their bones broken in assaults orchestrated by “keymasters” (chaveiros)—prisoners who are officially deputized with guard duties. The “keymaster” prisoners derive their nicknames from the fact that they literally control the keys to cells and, in practice, decide which prisoners get to access medical and other services outside the cellblock walls. The coalition documented prisoners suffering severe medical neglect in Aníbal Bruno, including untreated open wounds, infections, and chronic pain. The Inter-American Commission specifically urged Brazil to end the “keymaster” system, provide, “adequate medical attention to the [prisoners],” and adopt, “all the measures necessary to avoid the transmission of contagious diseases.”
Members of the Catholic Prison Ministry and the Ecumenical Service of Advocacy in Prisons have been monitoring human rights conditions in Aníbal Bruno prison for decades. Justiça Global and the Clinic began fact-finding, international litigation, and media advocacy surrounding Aníbal Bruno last fall, joining the work of advocates in the region.
For the initial complaint on Aníbal Bruno (in Portuguese with certain names redacted), click here [warning: this document contains a graphic image].
For the Commission’s decision (in Portuguese), click here.
March 8, 2011
Posted by Cara Solomon
Here’s our very own Jim Cavallaro talking to the Harvard International Law Journal about how he got started in the field of human rights, and what it takes to make an organization work on the ground. He also offers some good advice for students, including this:
“I encourage students to go somewhere that they might want to work and to be prepared to spend time there learning the ropes. Not a few weeks or months, but years. That’s what it takes. To be successful, you have to be part of the local human rights community, you have to understand the local culture, language, norms, and so forth. They say that all politics is local. Well, at some level, so is all human rights work. Or at least all good human rights work.”
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