European Committee Reports High Rates of Police Brutality In Portugal

Upon the European Committee's 11th visit to the country they report incidences of abuse remain high and a lot needs to be done by Portuguese authorities.

The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) claims that police brutality is frequent in Portugal, and that African descendants and immigrants are targeted more often, Joana Gorjão Henriques reports for Público.

The CPT’s report insists that “not enough has been done to acknowledge and combat the real and persistent problem of abuse by Portuguese security forces” and they urge Portuguese authorities to take “firm and immediate measures” and recognize that excessive use of force is a real thing, “and not a result of some unprincipled policemen,” according to Henriques.

“This is not a singular case of one policeman in a year who breaks the law. Every year we come to Portugal, there are allegations of more cases, and evidence, and there isn’t enough consciousness that it’s systemic and it needs to be combated. There is a reluctance to punish [aggressors],” Julia Kosma, the head of the delegation, tells Henriques. 

Kosma says she has lost faith in the Portuguese Inspectorate General of Home Affairs (IGAI), claiming that the cases they have presented to them had been a big disappointment. IGAI based their findings completely on the police reports and performed no additional investigations, Kosma says, according to Público. IGAI then closed the cases, claiming the use of force had been warranted, according to Kosma.

The CPT report brought attention to the need for superior officers to assume responsibility for their squad, and to implement appropriate sanctions when an aggression is committed, on both the aggressor and those who fail to report the incident.

CPT offered several examples of the justice system’s shortcomings, such as the case of a football fan who was left blind after an altercation with the police, and for which no criminal case was brought forward because the offending officer could not be identified. 

CPT also brought up the case of Major Carlos Botas, a GNR officer who was accused of torturing four theft suspects. Authorities waited four years to bring a criminal case against him, after years of whistleblowing by CPT. Botas was eventually sentenced for the crimes, but in 2019, his conviction was dismissed due to a technicality. 

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