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Jamaica

Portugal is one of the most racist countries in the EU – European Social Survey

Once again police violence against an underprivileged community has hit the headlines. This time the battlefield is called Jamaica. Not the home of Bob Marley’s reggae but a ghettoized neighbourhood of merely black Afro-descendants in the southern outskirts of greater Lisbon.

It all started with a quarrel between two residents, but it was when the police arrived that the story exploded. Police officers using excessive violence were captured by locals on video, that quickly went viral.

The next day around 300 black youngsters held a spontaneous demonstration at the prestigious Avenida da Liberdade, chanting ‘Stop racist police brutality’.
Police responded exorbitantly by firing rubber bullets and arresting four of the protesters.

Slums proliferated in Portugal from the 1970s onward due to immigration from the former Portuguese colonies of Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Guinee Bissau and Sao Tomé & Principe.

‘It is in the outskirts where the segregation of Portuguese speaking African immigrants began. Many of these neighbourhoods are regarded as ‘sensitive’ by the security forces but that doesn’t correlate with crime rates. It’s all about racial bias within the police force’, explains social worker Antonio Brito Guterres in the British newspaper the Guardian. Although the state forbids to collect data on ethnicity or race, the police does make use of ethnic profiling as evidenced by confidential police reports from 2016.

This story of police brutality reminds of the well-known case from February 2015, when 17 policemen were accused of a number of crimes against a group of black young people in Lisbon’s quarter Cova da Moura. Four years later the public prosecutor has dropped the charges of racism, torture and falsifying testimonies against all police officers!

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has repeatedly declared being very concerned with racism in Portugal and the lack of measures taken for the benefit of the black immigrant population.
But with the continued perceived impunity of the police and the unwillingness to even consider the issue of institutional racism in the country, tensions between African descent communities and the security forces will remain.


Bom fim de semana              Enjoy the weekend        
(pic Observador/Público)

Detention

21 MarchInternational Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

It’s violence of a racist nature perpetrated into our prison system.’
– José Pureza, 
MP of the Left Bloc (BE)

‘Accusations of racism, xenophobia, and torture are a shame for our country.’
Carlos Peixoto, MP of the Social Democrats (PSD)

‘It’s a reality that exists, apartheid in our society.’
Isabel Moreira, MP of the Socialist Party (PS)

‘Police violence is serious but look, violence against the police also increased.’
Vânia da Silva, MP of the Christian Democrats (CDS)

Both left and right wing parties in Parliament are concerned about racism in the police force and violation of human rights in prisons. The reason is a recently published report of the European Committee against Torture, stating that police violence in Portugal – in particular against African descendants – is the highest in Western Europe.

The committee – that also visited the country in 2013 – emphasizes that the police violence at police stations has increased and that the situation in the overcrowded prisons of Caxias, Setubal, and Lisbon is ‘inhuman and degrading.’

Julia Kozma, lawyer and chairing the European delegation, points the finger towards the Ministry of Internal Affairs – responsible for the police and the security forces – and regrets its lack of ‘awareness’. The Ministry denies the accusations and declares that ‘all complaints about violent police conduct are investigated by the Internal General Inspectorate (IGAI) and immediately reported to the Public Prosecutor.’

The reality, however, is that only a very small number of the complaints are brought before court. ‘And that’s exactly the problem’, says Kozma. ‘There is a spirit of impunity and bureaucracy, whereby complaining doesn’t help. The inspection body (IGAI) needs more skills to conduct criminal investigations and more resources to act independently.’

Pedro Neto, the director of Amnesty International in Portugal, also believes that the IGAI – “the police of the police” – should become independent of the Ministry. ’One government department cannot control another state entity.’

In recent months the non-governmental organization SOS racism received an increasing number of grievances from inmates in the prison of Lisbon about racist provocations and intimidations. Peculiar was that all complaints came from African immigrants and that any registration on xenophobe or racist behavior from the guards and staff is lacking.

All hope is now pinned on the Minister of Justice, Francisca van Dunem. She announced recently not only to reduce the number of convicts in jail but also to improve the conditions in detention centers. Bias

Bom fim de semana            Have a nice weekend          [photo’s Público/Sapo]