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Brazil

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The constitution prohibits such treatment and provides severe legal penalties for conviction of its use. There were, nevertheless, cases of degrading treatment such as those documented by Juan Mendez, UN special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, who visited the country in August 2015 and published his findings in January. Credible testimony from inmates–women, men, girls, and boys chosen at random in various detention facilities–pointed to the frequent use of torture and mistreatment, varying in methods and the severity of the pain and suffering inflicted. The incidents occurred during arrest and interrogation by police and also while inmates were in the custody of prison personnel. The inmates reported police and prison personnel engaged in severe kicking, beating (sometimes with sticks and truncheons), and suffocation. Inmates also reported police and prison personnel used Taser guns, pepper spray, tear gas, noise bombs, and rubber bullets, as well as profuse verbal abuse and threats.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Conditions in many prisons were poor and sometimes life threatening mainly due to overcrowding. Abuse by prison guards, including sexual abuse, continued at many facilities, and poor working conditions and low pay for prison guards encouraged corruption.

Physical Conditions: Endemic overcrowding was a problem. According to the Ministry of Justice and Citizenship, as of November the prison population was 711,463 prisoners (including house arrests); the official capacity of the prison system was 376,669 prisoners. According to the Catholic Church’s Penitentiary Commission, in some states women were occasionally held with men, although in separate cells. Prisoners who committed petty crimes frequently were held with murderers and other violent criminals. Authorities attempted to hold pretrial detainees separately from convicted prisoners, but lack of space often required holding convicted criminals in pretrial detention facilities. Many prisons, including in the Federal District, attempted to separate violent offenders from nonviolent ones and to keep convicted drug traffickers in a wing apart from the rest of the prison population. Multiple sources reported adolescents were jailed with adults in poor and crowded conditions. In many juvenile detention centers, the number of inmates greatly exceeded capacity.

Violence was rampant in several prison facilities in the Northeast. In addition to overcrowding, poor administration of the prison system, the presence of gangs, and corruption contributed to violence within the penitentiary system. In July criminal organizations organized prison riots and violent acts throughout prison facilities in the state of Rio Grande do Norte after the state government announced it would install cell-phone jammers at prison facilities. Authorities deployed more than 1,000 army troops after 107 prisoners escaped and burned several public buses. In October prison clashes between rival gangs killed at least 18 inmates in two penitentiaries in the states of Roraima and Rondonia, according to press reports.

The press reported on multiple riots and escapes in the Curado prison complex in the state of Pernambuco. In June judges from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights visited the Curado prison (previously named the Anibal Bruno prison) in relation to a case brought against the state of Pernambuco regarding alleged human rights violations. As part of the Inter-American Court case, Human Rights Watch and other NGOs cited inadequate sanitary conditions. HIV and tuberculosis rates in prisons were far higher than rates for the general population. The prevalence of tuberculosis in Pernambuco’s prisons was reportedly 37 times that of the general population.

Administration: Prisoners and detainees had access to visitors; however, human rights observers reported some visitors complained of screening procedures that at times included invasive and unsanitary physical exams. State-level ombudsman offices and the federal Secretariat of Human Rights monitored prison and detention center conditions and investigated credible allegations of inhuman conditions.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted monitoring by independent nongovernmental observers, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, United Nations, and Organization of American States.

Improvements: In the Pedrinhas complex in the state of Maranhao, authorities reduced the level of violence by incarcerating rival gang leaders in separate facilities and professionalizing the prison guards, converting them from private contractors to public employees.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The constitution and law provide for freedom of speech and press, and the government generally respected these rights. Independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views with minimal restriction, but nongovernmental criminal elements subjected journalists to violence because of their professional activities. Despite national laws prohibiting politically motivated judicial censorship, some local-level courts engaged in judicial censorship. NGOs highlighted instances of violence against journalists. Most were perpetrated by protesters or provocateurs in the context of massive demonstrations, but at times security forces injured journalists during crowd-control operations.

Violence and Harassment: Journalists were sometimes subject to harassment and physical attacks as a result of their reporting. According to Reporters without Borders, four journalists were killed in the country through September. On August 16, Mauricio Campos Rosa, owner of the newspaper O Grito, was killed in Belo Horizonte, the state capital of Minas Gerais. According to a local radio station, the motive was likely related to Rosa’s journalistic investigations into corruption involving city councilors and a cooperative responsible for garbage collection.

In February the newspaper Gazeta do Povo, based in the state of Parana, published a list of “super salaries” containing the names of judges, public prosecutors, and civil servants who earned more than the maximum salary allowed by law when government benefits were included in the calculation. In response judges and public prosecutors in Parana initiated 37 lawsuits against the newspaper and its employees. In July, Supreme Court Justice Carmen Lucia suspended the lawsuit spending a decision on the proper jurisdiction for the cases. The NGO Committee to Protect Journalists denounced the lawsuits as “judicial harassment.”

INTERNET FREEDOM

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or systematically censor online content, and there were no credible reports the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.

In theory the 2014 landmark Marco Civil law–considered an internet “bill of rights”–enshrines net neutrality and freedom of expression online and provides for the inviolability and secrecy of user communications online, permitting exceptions only by court order. Several legal and judicial rulings citing Marco Civil nevertheless had the potential to threaten freedom of expression on the internet. Anonymous speech is explicitly excluded from constitutional protection, which left little privacy protection for those who used the internet anonymously through a pseudonym. Police and prosecutors may obtain data pursuant to three main statutes: the Wiretapping Act, the Secrecy of Financial Data Act, and the Money Laundering Act.

Private individuals and official bodies took legal action against internet service providers and providers of online social media platforms, such as Google and Facebook, holding them accountable for content posted to or provided by users of the platform. During the year there were at least three instances of messaging applications such as WhatsApp being temporarily blocked for users throughout the country due to judicial decisions related to criminal investigations. A Supreme Federal Court judge overturned the WhatsApp shutdown within hours, citing it as a violation of the constitutional right to freedom of speech.

The electoral law regulates political campaign activity on the internet. The law prohibits paid political advertising online and in traditional media. During the three months prior to an election, the law also prohibits online and traditional media from promoting candidates and distributing content that ridicules or could offend a candidate.

According to CGI.br, the country’s internet management committee, 51 percent of households had access to the internet in 2015 and 58 percent of the population used the internet. The government promoted digital inclusion by providing free satellite internet access to remote areas; broadband access to municipal governments, schools, and health centers; computers to selected populations; and other assistance targeting vulnerable communities.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The law provides for the freedoms of assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The government generally respected rights of freedom of assembly, but police occasionally intervened in citizen protests. In January in the city of Sao Paulo, for instance, military police used tear gas and stun grenades to keep Free Pass Movement (MPL) protesters opposing increases in bus and transit fares from marching on one of the city’s main thoroughfares. Local authorities stated MPL leaders had not informed police of the planned route of the march, and therefore police took action to prevent protesters from damaging property, such as banks that were vandalized in previous protests. NGOs reported both the police and MPL played a part in the escalation of events. Some noted police were not consistent in informing demonstrators how far in advance notification of the protest march was required; others noted that during the demonstrations the MPL had tolerated violence perpetrated by groups not affiliated with their organization.

There were a series of large-scale, national protests in March, April, and August calling for the impeachment of President Rousseff and an end to corruption. Police reported no serious security incidents during these protests.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The law provides for this right, the government generally respected it.

c. Freedom of Religion

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The constitution provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights. The National Committee for Refugees cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, asylum seekers, and other persons of concern.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. By law refugees are provided official documentation, access to legal protection, and access to public services.

Temporary Protection: The government provided assistance to Haitian migrants who entered the country in hope of securing employment and relief from economic conditions in Haiti. To reduce the number of Haitians seeking to enter Brazil via dangerous irregular migration routes, the government extended through October 2017 its policy of issuing humanitarian visas through its embassy in Haiti. The visas entitle the recipients to receive health care and social assistance and grant them the right to work. According to the government, 85,000 Haitian migrants had migrated to the country since 2012.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape. Intimate partner violence remained both widespread and underreported to authorities, due to fear of retribution, further violence, and social stigma. Persons convicted of killing a woman or girl in cases of domestic violence may be sentenced to 12 to 30 years in prison. Longer sentences may be set for conviction of killing a pregnant woman, girls under age 14, or women with disabilities or who are over age 60. According to the Rio de Janeiro Court of Justice’s Observatory of Violence Against Women, from January to June 58,000 new cases of violence against women were brought to trial in the state. In May a high-profile case of an adolescent girl’s gang rape by 33 individuals ignited a debate regarding the prevalence of gender-based violence. According to UN Women and the Secretariat of Women’s Policies, in 2013 an average of 13 women were killed per day in the country due to this type of violence.

The federal government maintained a toll-free nationwide hotline for women to report instances of intimate partner violence (Dial 180). The hotline has the authority to mobilize military police units to respond to such reports and to follow up regarding the status of the case.

Each state secretariat for public security operated police stations dedicated exclusively to addressing crimes against women, which remained a significant problem. The specialized stations provided psychological counseling, temporary shelter, and hospital treatment for survivors of intimate partner violence, including rape, as well as criminal prosecution assistance by investigating incidents and forwarding evidence to courts. State and local governments also operated reference centers and temporary women’s shelters. The Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) reported 8 percent of municipalities had a dedicated space for the protection and care of victims of gender-based violence.

The law requires health facilities to contact police regarding cases in which a woman was harmed physically, sexually, or psychologically and to collect evidence and statements should the victim decide to prosecute.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is a criminal offense, punishable by up to two years in prison if convicted. The law prohibits sexual advances in the workplace or educational institutions and between service providers or clients. In the workplace it applies only in hierarchical situations where the harasser is of higher rank or position than the victim. NGOs reported sexual harassment remained a serious concern, particularly because 70 percent of victims were minors.

Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of children; manage their reproductive health; and have access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence.

Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. According to the Institute of Applied Economic Research, in 2014 women received 70 percent of what men received for equal work.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from birth in the country or from a parent. The National Council of Justice, in partnership with the Secretariat of Human Rights (SDH), acted to reduce the number of children without birth certificates by registering children born in maternity wards. The National Documentation of Rural Workers initiative offered assistance in obtaining birth certificates and other documents for children born in rural areas. In December 2015 the federal government announced the percentage of children without a birth certificate declined to 1 percent.

Child Abuse: Abuse and neglect of children and adolescents were problems. Children and adolescents were victims of rape and molestation, including girls impregnated by family members. The SDH oversaw a program that established nationwide strategies for combating child sexual abuse and best practices for treating victims. The government maintained a protection program for children and adolescents. Sixty percent of the children in the program had received death threats due to involvement in drug trafficking, and most entered the program accompanied by one or more family members. The program offered psychological counseling and technical courses to reinsert these youth into stable community situations.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage is 18 (age 16 with parental or legal representative consent). According to data from the UN Children’s Fund, 11 percent of women ages 20-24 were married before age 15, and 36 percent of women ages 20-24 were married before age 18.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Sexual exploitation of children, adolescents, and other vulnerable persons is punishable by four to 10 years in prison if convicted. The law defines sexual exploitation as prostitution of children, sexual activity, production of child pornography, and public or private sex shows. The law sets a minimum age of 14 for consensual sex, with the penalty for conviction of statutory rape ranging from eight to 15 years in prison.

While no specific laws address child sex tourism, it is punishable under other criminal offenses. The country was a destination for child sex tourism. Several major coastal cities in the Northeast were tourist destinations for the trafficking of children and adolescents for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. Additionally, reports indicated sexual exploitation of children and adolescents increased around major construction projects.

The law criminalizes child pornography. The penalty for conviction of possession of child pornography is up to four years in prison and a fine.

The Ministry of Tourism promoted its code of conduct to prevent the commercial sexual exploitation of children in the tourism industry. The Federal Highway Police and the International Labor Organization disseminated awareness materials in places such as gas stations, bars, restaurants, motels, and nightclubs along highways considered areas for sexual exploitation of children and adolescents.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

According to the Jewish Federation, there were approximately 120,000 Jewish citizens, of whom approximately 50,000 were in the state of Sao Paulo and 25,000 in Rio de Janeiro State. It is illegal to write, edit, publish, or sell books that promote anti-Semitism or racism. The law enables courts to fine or imprison anyone who displays, distributes, or broadcasts anti-Semitic materials and for those convicted mandates a two- to five-year prison term.

Several leaders of the Jewish and interfaith communities stated overt anti-Semitism remained limited. According to local reports, Casa Mafalda, an autonomous space for culture and politics in the city of Sao Paulo, was targeted by a neo-Nazi group who painted a swastika on the entrance gate of the institution and wrote references to Hitler. Neo-Nazi groups operated in the southern states of Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, and Parana.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical and mental disabilities in employment, air travel and other transportation, education, the judicial system, and access to health care, and the federal government generally enforced these provisions. While federal and state laws mandate access to buildings for persons with disabilities, states did not enforce them effectively.

The Brazilian Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities Act, a legal framework on the rights of persons with disabilities, seeks to promote greater accessibility through expanded federal oversight of the Statute of Cities, harsher criminal penalties for conviction of discrimination based on disability, and inclusive health services with provision of services near residences and rural areas.

The National Council for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the National Council for the Rights of the Elderly have primary responsibility for promoting the rights of persons with disabilities. According to the SDH, specific problems included the short supply of affordable and up-to-date orthotics and prosthetics, scarcity of affordable housing with special adaptations, and a need for greater accessibility to public transport. Children with disabilities attended primary and secondary schools and higher educational institutions, but there was a shortage of schools with adequate support. The lack of accessible infrastructure and schools significantly limited the ability of persons with disabilities to participate in the workforce.

Civil society organizations acknowledged that monitoring and enforcement of disability policies remained weak, and criticized a lack of accessibility to public transportation, weak application of employment quotas, and a limited medical-based definition of disability that often excludes learning disabilities. The government improved access for persons with disabilities in its infrastructure development and in retrofitting public sports venues to prepare for sporting events such as the 2016 Paralympic Games.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The law prohibits racial discrimination, specifically the denial of public or private facilities, employment, or housing, to anyone based on race. The law also prohibits the incitement of racial discrimination or prejudice and the dissemination of racially offensive symbols and epithets, and it stipulates prison terms for such acts.

The 2010 census reported that for the first time white persons constituted less than half the population; approximately 52 percent of the population identified themselves as belonging to categories other than white. Despite this high representation within the general population, darker-skinned citizens, particularly Afro-Brazilians, frequently encountered discrimination.

Afro-Brazilians were underrepresented in the government, professional positions, and middle and upper classes. They experienced a higher rate of unemployment and earned average wages below those of whites in similar positions. There was also a sizeable education gap. Afro-Brazilians were disproportionately affected by crime; according to one congressional investigative report, black men were 3.7 times more likely to be homicide victims than their white counterparts.

The 2010 Racial Equality Statute continued to be controversial, due to its provision for nonquota affirmative action policies in education and employment. In 2012 the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of racial quota systems at universities. A quotas law went into effect that gave the 59 federal universities four years to provide for half of the students of incoming classes to be from public schools, which generally enrolled a higher percentage of Afro-Brazilian students than did private schools. The 2010 law requires 20 percent of federal public administration positions be filled by Afro-Brazilians. The states of Rio de Janeiro, Rio Grande do Sul, Parana, and Mato Grosso do Sul have similar laws for local public administration positions. In August the Ministry of Planning established a requirement for government ministries to set up internal committees to validate the self-declared ethnicity claims of public-service job applicants by using phenotypic criteria, essentially assessing “blackness” in an attempt to reduce abuse of affirmative action policy and related laws.

Indigenous People

According to data from the National Indigenous Foundation (FUNAI) and the 2010 census, there were approximately 896,900 indigenous persons, representing 305 distinct indigenous ethnic groups and speaking 274 distinct languages. The law grants the indigenous population broad protection of their cultural patrimony, exclusive use of their traditional lands, and exclusive beneficial use of their territory. Congress must consult with the tribes involved when considering requests to exploit mineral and water resources, including ones with energy potential, on indigenous lands. The law grants indigenous tribes rights to a portion of the profit resulting from mining. According to the constitution, all aboveground and underground minerals as well as hydroelectric-power potential belong to the government. FUNAI has a mandated role for an indigenous consultation process, but human rights groups expressed concerns that most of the requirements for indigenous consultation remained unmet and that the body’s budget was significantly cut during the year.

Illegal logging, drug trafficking, and mining, as well as changes in the environment from large infrastructure projects, forced indigenous tribes to move to new areas or make their demarcated indigenous territories smaller than established by law.

According to FUNAI, the federal government established rules for providing financial compensation following the occupation in good faith of indigenous areas, as in the cases of companies that won development contracts affecting indigenous lands. Various indigenous peoples protested the slow pace of land demarcations.

The latest report (2015) of the Indigenous Missionary Council cited data from the Special Secretariat for Indigenous Health showing 137 indigenous persons were killed across the country. The council’s own research separately found 54 killings of indigenous persons throughout the country. In June public health worker Clodiodi Aquileu Rodrigues de Souza was shot and killed and six indigenous persons were injured in the municipality of Carapo in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, on land claimed by the Guarani Kaiowa indigenous group. Paramilitary forces acting on instructions of wealthy land owners allegedly carried out the attack as a reprisal against the indigenous community for seeking recognition of their land rights.

Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Federal law does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, but several states and municipalities have administrative regulations that prohibit such discrimination and provide for equal access to government services. Social discrimination remained a problem, especially against the transgender population. Violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals was a serious concern, with local NGOs reporting that as of June, 139 LGBTI persons were victims of hate killings.

The criminal code states offenses subject to criminal prosecution fall under federal statutes, leaving hate crimes subject to administrative, not criminal penalties. Sao Paulo is the only state to codify punishments for hate-motivated violence and speech against LGBTI individuals. In the state of Rio de Janeiro, the law penalizes commercial establishments that discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation. Sanctions vary from warnings and fines to the temporary suspension or termination of a business license. Fines may reach 15,600 reais ($4,460).

On July 2, Diego Vieira Machado, a student at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, was found dead at the Fundao campus, located in the northern region of Rio de Janeiro. His body was partially naked and showed signs of abuse. Friends alleged that the fact he was gay, black, poor, and born in the north of the country clearly played a role. They also said Machado had received several threats prior to the attack.

The National LGBT Council, composed of civil society and government agencies, combated discrimination and promoted the rights of LGBTI persons. Meetings were open to the public and broadcast over the internet.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS is punishable if convicted by up to four years in prison and a fine. Civil society organizations and the press reported discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS. According to the UN Program on HIV/AIDS in Brazil, discrimination against certain groups, particularly gay men, made individuals hesitate to seek HIV testing and treatment.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

According to the Catholic NGO Pastoral Land Commission, rural violence, death threats, and killings of environmentalists continued to take place. A commission press release cited 47 such killings of environmentalists through September. Global Witness reported 50 killings of environmental activists in 2015 (with 90 percent occurring in the states of Maranhao, Para, and Rondonia).

In October Luiz Araujo, the environmental and tourism secretary of the city of Altamira in the state of Para, was shot and killed in his driveway. Media outlets reported it appeared to be a targeted killing, and an associate of Araujo said he was under pressure because of his efforts against illegal deforestation.

The Brazilian Committee of Human Rights Defenders also reported that in the first four months of the year, 24 human rights defenders were killed, 21 of whom were from organizations that defended land rights.

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