The Committee on Enforced Disappearances this afternoon concluded its consideration of the initial report of Brazil on measures taken to implement the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance, with Committee Experts asking about statistics on missing persons, systems available to victims’ families, and the criminalisation of enforced disappearances.
Committee experts asked the delegation to elaborate on cases of enforced disappearance, asking for figures and statistics, while acknowledging the limitations of available data due to enforced disappearance not being criminalised in Brazil. Experts also asked for details around Brazil’s amnesty law and how it related to the Convention. Citing information from non-governmental organizations alleging cases of enforced disappearance having occurred after Brazil’s 2010 ratification of the Convention, they also asked for details of how families of victims would manage administrative aspects following a disappearance. Regarding training around enforced disappearances, experts wanted to know which institution was in charge of conducting such training, how such training was conducted, and how the curriculum had been developed.
Mariana de Sousa Machado Neris, National Secretary for Global Protection of the Ministry of Women, Family and Human Rights and deputy head of the delegation, said the crime of enforced disappearance as described in the Convention would shortly enter the Brazilian legal system, noting that a bill to that effect, after other approvals, would become law through presidential sanction. Brazil’s National System for Identification and Location of Missing Persons, created about a decade ago, was the most advanced in Brazil in terms of consolidating data on disappearances. Turning to international issues, she noted that Brazil was a signatory to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
The delegation told the Committee that in Brazil, a “disappeared person” could be voluntary, meaning a person who just went missing or lost contact with their family. There were no enforced disappearances in Brazil, yet several institutions, including a National Committee for searching for missing persons had been operationalized, and as per the Brazilian legal system, the search for a missing person did not interfere with civil procedure.
The delegation of Brazil was comprised of representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the Ministry of Women, Family and Human Rights; the Ministry of Justice and Public Security; and the Permanent Mission of Brazil to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The Committee will issue the concluding observations and recommendations on the report of Brazil at the end of its twenty-first session, which concludes on 24 September. Those, and other documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, will be available on the session’s webpage. The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings can be accessed at https://webtv.un.org/.
The Committee will next meet in public on Wednesday, 15 September at 3 p.m. to begin its dialogue with Panama.
The Committee has before it the initial report of Brazil (CED/C/BRA/1).
Presentation of the Report
TOVAR DA SILVA NUNES, Permanent Representative of Brazil to the United Nations Office and other International Organizations in Geneva and head of delegation, recognizing the important work of the Committee to bring justice, noted that the present review was Brazil’s first dialogue with a United Nations treaty body in almost six years. In 2019, Brazil had committed to submit all its pending reports to the treaty bodies. Brazil’s effort to present its pending reports stemmed not only from its duty to implement its international obligations in a timely manner, but also reflected the great importance Brazil attached to dialogues with treaty bodies as a means to better promote and protect human rights.
MARIANA DE SOUSA MACHADO NERIS, National Secretary for Global Protection of the Ministry of Women, Family and Human Rights and deputy head of the delegation, introducing the report, said the defense of human rights was one of the pillars of society and the State. Brazil’s institutional structure was geared toward the protection of human rights, including the fight against enforced disappearance. The crime of enforced disappearance as described in the Convention would shortly enter the Brazilian legal system, she said, noting that a bill to that effect, after other approvals, would become law through presidential sanction. Forced disappearance is was currently criminalized in Brazil in the form of kidnapping, homicide, concealment of a corpse, trafficking in persons, torture, and kidnapping of a prisoner (in the case of individuals deprived of their liberty). Any cooperation between individuals for the purposes of causing the disappearance of another was penalized as crimes of “criminal association” or “formation of a private militia”.
Although Brazil still did not have integrated statistics at the federal level on enforced disappearances, the National Registry of Missing Persons was in the process of implementing such statistics, which would address all possible forms of disappearance, including enforced disappearances. Regarding Brazil’s National System for Identification and Location of Missing Persons (“SINALID”), she said that the system, created about a decade ago, was the most advanced in Brazil in terms of consolidating data on disappearances. More than 10 000 disappearances had already been solved. Furthermore, in a few weeks, the Ministry of Women, Family and Human Rights would launch an application to register disappearances named “SOS Desaparecidos”. In 2022, Brazil would launch a national alert to disseminate information about missing persons, in the style of the American “Amber Alert”.
As for the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on human rights, she said that in Brazil, access to justice and other rights by relatives of missing persons had not been restricted by the ongoing public health crisis. She noted that one of the main concerns of the Convention was the effective accountability of State agents in cases of enforced disappearance. Noting that Brazil had a criminal system where there was a clear separation between the accuser and the judge, she underscored that the Brazilian Public Prosecutor’s Office had full independence to investigate and prosecute. The judiciary was also fully independent, with each judge passing judgment in accordance with the law, “and his own conscience”.
Turning to international issues, she noted that Brazil was a signatory to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. That court’s statute treated forced disappearance as a crime against humanity “when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against any civilian population”. The Brazilian legal system treated it the same way. Brazil allowed the extradition of people accused of carrying out forced disappearances, but would not extradite, repatriate or deport when there were reasons to believe that could endanger the life of personal integrity of the individual.
Questions by the Committee Experts
MILICA KOLAKOVIĆ-BOJOVIĆ, Committee Vice President, welcomed the fact that Brazil was among the first States to ratify the Convention. Regarding articles 31 and 32 of the Convention, on individual communications (complaints to the Committee from people alleging violations of their human rights) was there progress toward recognizing the competence of the Committee to receive and consider communications from or on behalf of individuals? How was data on enforced disappearances collected, what was the statute and guarantee of independence of the national bodies in charge of human rights? How were their powers divided, and what was the role of human right defenders in relation to the institutions?
MATAR DIOP, Committee member, noting that enforced disappearance was not criminalized in Brazil, asked whether the Brazilian delegation had statistics on other charges prosecuted, but treated as such? Could the Committee have information a bout the rare cases of disappearance acknowledged by the authorities? Which restrictions were imposed by Brazil’s amnesty law?
MILICA KOLAKOVIĆ-BOJOVIĆ, Committee Vice President, said the Committee had received comprehensive allegations from non-governmental organizations on enforced disappearances which had happened in the past, but also some information that there were enforced disappearances occurring at present, including by military and civilian police, as well as by armed and paramilitary groups formed by or acting with support of State agents.
Replies by the Delegation
In response to queries about Brazil’s ratification of the Convention, the delegation explained the procedure for ratifying a convention in Brazil, and the involvement of different authorities along the way. Brazil maintained a separation of powers, which meant that there were a number of institutions which worked together in that process.
Regarding consultations around Article 31 and 32, they would continue internally among the parties involved, the delegation said, adding that there was little sign Brazil would recognise the articles soon.
Brazil had no specific centralized mechanism on cases of enforced disappearance. However, a new system would be operational next year, which would include information on the involvement of military personnel.
Follow-up Questions by the Committee Experts