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Torture by Police, Forced Disappearance

& Other Ill Treatment

In the early years of the 21st Century, 2000 to 2025                                    

Federative Republic of Brazil

Brazil’s police force remains mired in corruption, and serious police abuses, including extrajudicial killings, continued in 2017. Police officers are rarely prosecuted for abuses, and those charged are almost never convicted.

Conditions in Brazil’s severely overcrowded prisons are life-threatening, characterized by disease, a lack of adequate food, and deadly gang-related violence. Violence is more likely to affect poor, black prisoners. Wealthy inmates often enjoy better conditions than poorer prisoners.

[Freedom House Country Report, 2018]

Description: Description: Description: Brazil

CAUTION:  The following links have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in Brazil.  Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false.  No attempt has been made to validate their authenticity or to verify their content.



If you are looking for material to use in a term-paper, you are advised to scan the postings on this page and others to see which aspects of Torture by Authorities are of particular interest to you.  You might be interested in exploring the moral justification for inflicting pain or inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment in order to obtain critical information that may save countless lives, or to elicit a confession for a criminal act, or to punish someone to teach him a lesson outside of the courtroom.  Perhaps your paper might focus on some of the methods of torture, like fear, extreme temperatures, starvation, thirst, sleep deprivation, suffocation, or immersion in freezing water.  On the other hand, you might choose to write about the people acting in an official capacity who perpetrate such cruelty.  There is a lot to the subject of Torture by Authorities.  Scan other countries as well as this one.  Draw comparisons between activity in adjacent countries and/or regions.  Meanwhile, check out some of the Term-Paper resources that are available on-line.

*** ARCHIVES ***

I Fled Brazil to Escape Torture, Corruption, and My Family

Karen Keilt, Daily Beast, 9 May 2019

[accessed 10 May 2019]

Kidnapped and then tortured and raped while being held for ransom, Karen Keilt discovered upon her release that her own family was horrifyingly indifferent to her ordeal.

I was born and raised in a wealthy Brazilian/American family in São Paulo, Brazil and had lived a very privileged life there for the first 27 years of my life. But a few months after our marriage, my husband and I were pulled from our beds, imprisoned, raped and tortured for 45 days by the corrupt government under the premise of drug trafficking, released only when my family paid a $400,000 bribe. Not long after this traumatic experience, Brazil passed a law in 1979 that gave carte blanche indemnity from prosecution to any government officer who tortured. This new law was anathema to me. I had an infant son and my fledgling marriage had fallen apart.

2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Brazil

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 30 March 2021

[accessed 6 July 2021]


The constitution prohibits torture and inhuman or degrading treatment, but there were reports government officials sometimes employed such practices. The law mandates that special police courts exercise jurisdiction over state military police except those charged with “willful crimes against life,” primarily homicide. Impunity for security forces was a problem. Police personnel often were responsible for investigating charges of torture and excessive force carried out by fellow officers. Delays in the special military police courts allowed many cases to expire due to statutes of limitations.

According to the National Council of the Public Ministry, in 2019 there were 2,676 cases of guards and other personnel inflicting bodily harm on prisoners, compared with 3,261 cases in 2018.


General prison conditions were poor. There was a lack of potable water, inadequate nutrition, food contamination, rat and cockroach infestations, damp and dark cells, a lack of clothing and hygiene items, and poor sanitation. According to a March report from the Ministry of Health, prisoners were 35 times more likely to contract tuberculosis, compared with the general public. One NGO, the Rio de Janeiro Mechanism for Torture Prevention, asserted that injured inmates were denied medication and proper medical treatment.

Freedom House Country Report

2018 Edition

[accessed 11 May 2020]


Brazil’s police force remains mired in corruption, and serious police abuses, including extrajudicial killings, continued in 2017. Police officers are rarely prosecuted for abuses, and those charged are almost never convicted.

Conditions in Brazil’s severely overcrowded prisons are life-threatening, characterized by disease, a lack of adequate food, and deadly gang-related violence. Violence is more likely to affect poor, black prisoners. Wealthy inmates often enjoy better conditions than poorer prisoners.

Brazil prosecutors open probe after prison torture videos

National Post, Rio De Janeiro. 30 November 2017

[accessed 3 December 2017]

Brazilian prosecutors have opened an investigation into three penitentiaries in Goias state after videos surfaced showing what seem to be prison guards torturing inmates.

In videos believed to have been shot between 2014 and 2015, but only obtained this week by prosecutors and made available to the press Thursday, several guards can be seen repeatedly using stun guns on inmates who were already under control.

In one video, prison agents can be seen filming each other as they shoot a prisoner with a stun gun while he is sleeping in a hammock inside a cell.

Rio police kill, torture with impunity

Laura Bonilla Cal, Agence France-Presse AFP, 9 July 2016

[accessed 3 August 2016]

[accessed 30 December 2017]

The international rights group identified 64 cases in the last eight years in which Rio police allegedly tried to cover up extrajudicial killings of 116 people, including at least 24 minors.

"Killing criminals was a requirement from my superiors as a way of showing that we were performing well," one of 30 police officers interviewed for Human Rights Watch's study alleged.

The officer said he had been stationed in one of Rio's most dangerous neighborhoods where he took part in operations against heavily armed drug traffickers. The strategy was to kill them as a way to reduce crime, he said.

The officer, who is still on the force, spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

He was quoted as saying that some police would capture suspected drug traffickers and kill them, sometimes to gain status as killers and to boost their own extortion rackets.

Human Rights Watch World Report 2015 - Events of 2014

Human Rights Watch, 29 January 2015 or

[accessed 18 March 2015]


PRISON CONDITIONS, TORTURE, AND ILL-TREATMENT OF DETAINEES - Torture is a chronic problem in police stations and detention centers. Between January 2012 and June 2014, the national Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office received 5,431 complaints of torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment (about 181 complaints per month) from all over the country through a telephone hotline service. Of these, 84 percent referred to incidents at police stations, jails, prisons, and juvenile detention centers.

Rights group: Torture in Brazil still a problem

The Associated Press AP, Sao Paulo, 29 July 2014

[accessed 31 December 2014]

The New York-based Human Rights Watch said in an emailed statement that it found evidence showing that since 2010, security forces and prison authorities practiced cruel and inhumane treatment against 64 people in their custody.

The group said more than 150 police officers and prison guards were involved in torture and cruel treatment inside detention centers, police stations and vehicles in the states of Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Bahia, Espirito Santo and Parana.

Ideli Salvatti, head of the government's Human Rights Secretariat, welcomed the group's observations.

Torture in the name of peace

Astrid Prange, Deutsche Welle DW-WORLD.DE, 2 November 2013

[accessed 2 Nov 2013]

They could hear his cries for help right through the wall, growing ever louder, increasingly racked with pain. Uniformed officers at the police headquarters in Rio de Janeiro's impoverished district of Rocinha were torturing a local resident with electric shocks. But their colleagues on duty in the next room didn't rush to help the victim. They just blocked their ears. Eventually, he fell silent.

The torture victim was a construction worker called Amarildo de Souza, who was arrested "by mistake" in Rocinha on 14 July 2013. The officers mistook him for a drug dealer. Amarildo de Souza not been seen since. No body has been found, but his family assume that he is dead.

The search for Amarildo has become a cause celebre, and a nationwide symbol of the struggle against police violence and injustice. Ever since, earlier this year, members of Rio's so-called "Peace Police", the UPP (Unidade de Policia Pacificadora: Police Peace Unit) admitted that torture was part of their daily routine, the city has been in uproar. More and more people are criticising the concept of security policing represented by the UPP.

Brazil charges 15 police officers in torture death

Paulo Prada, Reuters, Rio De Janeiro, 22 October 2013

[accessed 14 September 2014]

Among the accused is the former commander of the police force there, who was fired from his post after the abduction and is in custody, facing charges including torture and the hiding of a corpse. Prosecutors say the former commander ordered subordinates to detain and question de Souza and, after the torture killed him, hide his body.

After voice analyses and interviews with police who were ordered to guard a small shed where the abuses occurred, investigators identified four officers who prosecutors say carried out the torture, including simulated drowning, electric shocks and asphyxiation with a plastic bag.

If convicted, the accused face prison sentences of up to 33 years.

Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee against Torture

U.N. Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment  -- Doc. A/56/44, paras. 115-120 (2001)

[accessed 23 February 2013]

119. The Committee expresses its concern about the following:

(a) The persistence of a culture that accepts abuses by public officials, the numerous allegations of acts of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment - in police stations, prisons and facilities belonging to the armed forces - and the de facto impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators of those acts;

(b) The overcrowding, lack of amenities and poor hygiene in prisons, the lack of basic services and of appropriate medical attention in particular, violence between prisoners and sexual abuse. The Committee is particularly concerned about allegations of ill-treatment and discriminatory treatment of certain groups with regard to access to the already limited essential services, notably on the basis of social origin or sexual orientation;

(c) The long periods of pre-trial detention and delays in judicial procedure which, together with the overcrowding in prisons, have resulted in convicted prisoners and prisoners awaiting trial being held in police stations and other places of detention not adequately equipped for long periods of detention, a fact which could in itself constitute a violation of the provisions of article 16 of the Convention;

(d) The lack of training of law-enforcement officials in general, at all levels, and of medical personnel, as provided by article 10 of the Convention;

(e) The competence of the police to conduct inquiries following reports of crimes of torture committed by members of police forces without effective control in practice by the Public Prosecutor's Office, with the result that immediate and impartial inquiries are prevented, which contributes to the impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators of these acts;

(f) The absence of an institutionalized and accessible procedure to guarantee victims of acts of torture the right to obtain redress and to be fairly and adequately compensated, as provided for in article 14 of the Convention;

(g) The absence in Brazilian legislation of an explicit prohibition on any statement obtained through torture being accepted as evidence in judicial proceedings.

Ensure Justice for Police Abuse in Rio State

Human Rights Watch, Washington DC, June 14, 2012

[accessed 21 January 2013]

But Human Rights Watch found that extrajudicial executions by police remain a serious problem, and that these cases are misreported as “resistance killings,” the result of shootouts with criminal suspects.

In one case from June 2011, for example, 11-year-old Juan de Moraes disappeared after an incident in the Danon favela in which three other people were shot by military police, one fatally. The police reported the incident as a “shootout” with “armed assailants.” Civil police investigators only undertook a serious investigation to determine what took place after the case received extensive media attention. They ultimately found Moraes’ DNA at the crime scene and other forensic evidence indicating that there had been no shoot-out.

That same month, Diego Beliene was shot to death by military police in the Salgueiro favela. The police reported the death as a “resistance killing,” claiming that Beliene was wounded during a shootout in the street. However, civil police investigators found forensic evidence and testimony from witnesses indicating that a police officer shot Beliene after he entered a property that had been occupied by the police. Police held Beliene in custody for more than half an hour as he bled to death, refusing pleas by his family members to allow them to assist him.

Misreporting of police killing cases and inadequate investigations by civil police are major factors contributing to widespread impunity, according to state prosecutors who spoke with Human Rights Watch. No police officers have been held accountable in the majority of cases that Human Rights Watch documented in 2009. For example, no one has been brought to justice in connection with the Complexo do Alemão police killings of 19 people on June 27, 2007, despite extensive evidence that multiple extrajudicial executions occurred, crime scene evidence was deliberately destroyed, and investigators negligently failed to request obvious forensics analysis.

Essential Background: Overview of Human Rights Issues in Brazil

Human Rights Watch, January 1, 2004

[accessed 31 December 2014]

TORTURE -- Torture and ill-treatment of criminal suspects and prisoners is a systemic problem in Brazil. Police (both civil and military) and guards routinely torture suspects during and after arrest, in pre-trial detention facilities, and in prisons. Children held in juvenile detention centers are commonly beaten by police and by other detainees. The mistreatment of prisoners and police abuse of criminal suspects, including electric shocks and beatings, occurs while police or guards are trying to extract confessions, information, or money. Victims tend to be poor, brown or black common criminals. Torture is facilitated by unacceptable detention conditions and gross neglect of detainees' basic rights, including the right to counsel. Impunity for torturers gives police and prison guards no incentive to employ alternative methods of control. 

POLICE VIOLENCE -- Police violence is endemic and police ties to organized crime and death squads aggravate the problem. Death squads, usually made up of police and other state agents, intimidate those deemed socially or politically undesirable. Poor young black and brown men are often targeted because of their social background. More than 800 civilians reportedly died in police shootings in Rio de Janeiro during the first eight months of 2003 alone. In many cases such killings are officially classified as "resistance followed by death," thus turning the tables on the victims and precluding an investigation into police conduct. A report by the Global Justice Center (Justica Global) on summary and extrajudicial executions in Brazil from 1997 to 2003 detailed how some state authorities have even "created incentives for law enforcement agents to kill, employing salary bonuses and promotions or guaranteeing impunity for police that distinguish themselves for engaging in fatal shootings."


From an old article -- URL not available

Article was published sometime prior to 2015

TORTURE AND OTHER ILL-TREATMENT - Torture was prevalent at the point of arrest and during interrogation and detention in police stations and prisons.

PRISON CONDITIONS - The prison population reached around 500,000 in 2011, with 44 per cent of all prisoners held in pre-trial detention. Severe overcrowding, degrading conditions, torture, and prisoner-on-prisoner violence were commonplace.

DEATH SQUADS AND MILITIAS - Police officers were believed to be involved in death squads and milícias (militias) engaged in social cleansing, extortion, as well as in trafficking in arms and drugs.

In February, the federal police’s Operation Guillotine uncovered a web of corruption extending to senior officials in Rio de Janeiro’s civil police. Forty-seven serving or former police officers were accused of forming armed gangs, embezzlement, arms trafficking and extortion.

In February in the state of Goiás, 19 military police officers, including the sub-commander of the military police, were arrested and charged with involvement in death squads. In June, a special commission investigating police involvement in death squads in the state released a report examining 37 cases of enforced disappearance where police involvement was suspected. Following the release of the report, members of the commission themselves received death threats.


For curreent articles:: Search Amnesty International Website

[accessed 25 December 2018]

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Human Rights Reports » 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 8, 2006

[accessed 21 January 2013]

[accessed 3 July 2019]

TORTURE AND OTHER CRUEL, INHUMAN, OR DEGRADING TREATMENT OR PUNISHMENT – Although the law prohibits torture and provides severe legal penalties for its use, torture by police and prison guards remained a serious and widespread problem.

From January through September, the Sao Paulo State Police Ombudsman's Office received 17 complaints of torture. The nongovernmental organization (NGO) Christian Association for the Abolition of Torture estimated that it had received complaints of 650 cases of torture in the Sao Paulo State prison system from the end of 2002 until mid-year, approximately 60 of which were received from January to September. The NGO Christian Association for the Abolition of Torture estimated that it received approximately 25 complaints of torture in the Sao Paulo prison system during the year. Common torture methods included open-handed blows, beatings with wood or other objects, and collective punishment.

The Center for the Defense of Human Rights in Matto Grosso do Sul State received 36 reports of torture during the first 6 months of the year; one case resulted in a conviction. The center stated that many victims did not report incidents of torture for fear of reprisal.

On June 14, authorities sentenced two civil police officers to 8 years and 5 years 4 months in prison, respectively, for beating and torturing a 15-year-old boy in Xinguara, Para State, in 1999. The convicted officers remained free pending their appeal, despite fears that those involved in obtaining the conviction of the two officers were at risk of reprisals and intimidation.

During the year the National Movement for Human Rights together with the Chamber of Deputies' Human Rights Commission reported that police and prison guards were responsible for nearly 80 percent of the reported cases of torture and that most victims were young, poor, Afro-Brazilian men from less-developed regions; it reported an average of 150 cases per month. Most reports came from remote cities in the interior where low-ranking police were in charge.

The state public prosecutor for children and youth (responsible for defending the rights of incarcerated youth) was involved in 26 ongoing investigations into torture and mistreatment claims in Sao Paulo's juvenile detention system (FEBEM). According to the public prosecutor, there were 19 ongoing criminal cases against 220 former or current FEBEM employees who were accused of torture.

On January 11, FEBEM Vila Maria employees reportedly beat and tortured inmates. On January 13, 16 FEBEM employees were arrested and provisionally imprisoned, while 7 evaded arrest; 55 were indicted on charges of torture, failure to prevent torture, and related charges. Sao Paulo State authorities continued their investigation at year's end.

In June Federal District Attorney General Rogerio Schietti presented an analysis of 711 complaints of torture received by the National Torture SOS hot line between 2001 and 2003. The analysis classified 62 of the complaints as torture, of which 45 percent occurred in prisons, 33 percent in jails, and 22 percent in public areas. In 73 percent of the cases, torture had been used as a "punitive or preventive" measure. In the Federal District, beating was the method of torture in 72 percent of the cases, but psychological intimidation, food deprivation, water torture, and electrical shocks also occurred.

Federal, state, and military police often enjoyed impunity in cases of torture, as in other cases of abuse (see section 1.e.)

The 2004 case of five individuals who alleged that military police officers in Sao Bernardo do Campo, Sao Paulo, regularly tortured them over a period of 112 days remained pending at year's end. According to the NGO Christian Association for the Abolition of Torture, the four policemen charged in the case were released, pending the trial's outcome.

No new information was available regarding the criminal investigation into the public prosecutor's charges that in July 2004 FEBEM's Raposo Tavares unit 27 tortured youthful inmates by burning them with fireworks. The unit director was dismissed in November.

In July Delegado Marco Tulio Fadel, accused of detaining and torturing adults and adolescents in 2003 at the Igarape police station in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais State, was sentenced to 16 years' imprisonment.

In some cases, sexual orientation or gender identity might have played a role in cases of torture and cruel treatment (see section 5). NGOs confirmed that police committed abuse and extortion directed against transvestite prostitutes in the cities of Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, and Salvador.

While an internal civil investigation absolved five civil Anti-Kidnapping Unit policemen on charges of torturing three individuals in the Sapopemba neighborhood of Sao Paulo City in 2003; a trial on those charges against four policemen and a police clerk remained pending at year's end.

Freedom House Country Report - Political Rights: 2   Civil Liberties: 2   Status: Free

2009 Edition

[accessed 21 January 2013]

LONG URL   ç 2009 Country Reports begin on Page 21

[accessed 11 May 2020]

Brazil’s police are among the world’s most violent and corrupt, and the violence has only increased in recent years. According to official estimates, police in Rio de Janeiro state killed 694 people in the first half of 2007, one-third more than the same period in 2006. Torture is used systematically to extract confessions from suspects, and extrajudicial killings are portrayed as shootouts with dangerous criminals. An investigation by an independent committee found overwhelming evidence that many of the killings reported from a May 2006 crime wave in Sao Paulo were in fact summary executions by the police. In the rare instances when police officers are indicted for such abuses, convictions are not obtained; typically the charges are dismissed for “lack of evidence.”  The situation is complicated by the fact that this “no prisoner” approach by the police often enjoys considerable support by favela dwellers, the principal victims of gang violence. The National Committee for the Prevention and Control of Torture, which was created in June 2006, is tasked with designing mechanisms to minimize torture and inspecting detention centers.

The prison system remains anarchic, overcrowded, and largely unfit for human habitation. Human rights groups charge that torture and other inhumane treatment common to most of the country’s detention centers turn petty thieves into hardened criminals. According to official estimates, Brazil’s prisons hold approximately 420,000 inmates despite a design capacity of only 220,000. A commission charged with investigating problems with the country’s prisons was established in August 2007 after 25 inmates died during a riot in a Minas Gerais prison.

U.S. Library of Congress - Country Study 1998

Library of Congress Call Number F2508 .B846 1998

[accessed 19 July 2017]

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT - PENAL INSTITUTIONS  Prison conditions generally range from poor to harsh, and include overcrowding, a lack of hygiene, poor nutrition, and even instances of torture. In 1995 Brazil's overcrowded prisons held 129,169 inmates in space designed for 59,954. That compares with 23,385 inmates in 1965, nearly a sixfold increase. Often there are six to eight prisoners in a cell meant for three. The Ministry of Justice reported that thirty-three prison rebellions occurred in 1994, while attempted or successful escapes averaged almost nine per day.

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Cite this webpage as: Patt, Prof. Martin, " Torture by Police, Forced Disappearance & Other Ill Treatment in the early years of the 21st Century- Brazil",, [accessed <date>]