Posts

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]

 

 

Bias

When I was stopped by the police and asked them ‘why’, the officer said ‘a black man is always suspicious’ – José Fernandes, legal advisor.

In Portugal, prisons are painted black! Of every 10 prisoners, 9 (90%) are Africans. If you are from Cape Verde, the situation becomes even worse, as 15 times more Cape Verdeans than Portuguese stay in jail. Compared with these figures Afro-Americans are relatively better off. In the US black people are ‘only’ 5 times more likely to be imprisoned than their fellow Americans.

‘These numbers are shocking’, says Alípio Ribeiro, an attorney from the Criminal Investigation Department and confirm what he already thought: ‘there is a legal system for whites and a legal system for blacks’.
‘You can’t just derive from these data, that black people are more criminal. It is much more likely that black people are locked up easier. Apparently little is needed to put them in prison.’

Approximately 1% of the population – 100.000 people – originates from the former Portuguese colonies in Africa, most of them from Cape Verde. The majority lives around the capital, in deprived neighborhoods, like Amadora and Sintra. Their exact number is unknown as collecting ethnic data is prohibited by Portuguese law.

Already in 2014, the Immigration Observatory indicated that sentences are tougher when committed by black Africans. Information from the General Directorate of the Department of Justice (DGPJ) and recently disclosed by the Portuguese newspaper Público, shows that black Africans indeed get the maximum sentence twice as often for offenses like robbery and domestic assault.

Celso Manata, head of DGPJ, however, rejects the idea that the legal system is discriminatory. He admits that there is an over-representation of blacks in Portuguese prisons, but believes that ‘this is caused by the poor socio-economic circumstances of black people, who therefore are more likely to commit a crime’.

‘In a society aimed at keeping an eye on certain communities, it is not surprising that the number of prisoners from these communities will be greater’, declares José Semedo, a lawyer at the National Immigrant Support Centre.
’Both our legal and prison system are much more aggressive to black people’.This is also reflected in the fact, that black people often have to serve their time and hardly get remission. ‘These findings clearly demonstrate that black prisoners are not getting the best defense and therefore stay unnecessary long behind bars.’

BOM FIM DE SEMANA