U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2006 - Portugal
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Author||Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor|
|Publication Date||6 March 2007|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2006 - Portugal , 6 March 2007, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/45f0569111.html [accessed 5 October 2015]|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
March 6, 2007
Portugal, with a population of approximately 10.6 million, is a constitutional democracy with a president, a prime minister, and a parliament elected in multiparty elections. National parliamentary elections in February 2005 were free and fair. The civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces.
The government generally respected the human rights of its citizens; however, there were problems in some areas. Police and prison guards occasionally beat and abused detainees and prison conditions remained poor. Lengthy pretrial and preventive detention remained a problem as did trafficking in foreign laborers and women.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:
a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life
There were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings; however, security forces shot and killed six persons during the year. The six shootings were under investigation at year's end by the government's Inspectorate General of Internal Administration (IGAI).
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The constitution and law prohibit such practices; however, there were credible reports of disproportionate use of force by police and of mistreatment and other forms of abuse by prison guards against detainees.
During the year the IGAI investigated new reports of mistreatment and abuse by police and prison guards (see section 1.d.).
An internal prison inquiry into the beating of Albino Libânio in 2003 found that he had sustained multiple injuries from an assault that may have amounted to torture. A criminal investigation into the matter was pending, and disciplinary proceedings against several prison officers were ongoing.
In December 2005 a trial began of three police officers who were accused of assault in 1995.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prison conditions remained poor, and guards continued to mistreat prisoners occasionally. Other problems included overcrowding, inadequate facilities, poor health conditions, and violence among inmates.
Most of the guidelines and legislative proposals the government adopted in 2004 to reform the prison system had not been put in practice. However, some improvements were made during the year, including a decrease in prison overcrowding and an increase in personnel training.
According to the Director General for Prisons, approximately 35 percent of the prison population was infected with HIV/AIDS and/or hepatitis B or C. The highest percentage (at least 20 percent) is infected with hepatitis C while at least 10 percent are infected with HIV/AIDS. According to the Ministry of Justice, 93 persons died in prisons during 2005, 25 of them from HIV/AIDS and 35 from unspecified illnesses. Nine were reported as suicides. The government's AIDS prevention and treatment program continued in two major prisons on a three-year trial basis.
Although there was a youth prison in Leiria, at times juveniles were held with adults elsewhere in the prison system. Pretrial detainees were held with convicted criminals.
The government permitted visits by independent human rights observers during the year.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, and the government generally observed these prohibitions.
Role of the Police and Security Apparatus
There were approximately 50,000 law enforcement officials, including police and prison guards. The ministries of Justice and Internal Administration are primarily responsible for internal security. The Republican National Guard (GNR) has jurisdiction outside cities, and the Public Security Police (PSP) has jurisdiction in cities. The Aliens and Borders Service has jurisdiction on immigration and border issues.
Some members of the security forces committed human rights abuses. In 2004 the IGAI received 276 complaints of human rights abuses. The majority of the complaints were against the PSP and the GNR, 166 and 94 respectively. The complaints included injuries or threats with firearms, excessive use of force, illegal detention, and abuse of power.
The major problems within the police forces were understaffing, insufficient training with firearms, and inconsistent or weak law enforcement. According to the chairman of the Portuguese Police Association, police killings could be linked to the lack of adequate firearm training. There were no indications that police corruption was widespread. During the year police officers received professional training, and the government regulated their actions through mechanisms established by law.
An independent ombudsman is chosen by the parliament and the IGAI to investigate complaints of abuse or mistreatment by police; however, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) criticized the slow pace of investigations and the lack of an independent oversight agency to monitor the IGAI and Ministry of Interior.
Arrest and Detention
The constitution and law provide detailed guidelines covering all aspects of arrest and custody, and the authorities generally followed the laws in practice. Persons can only be arrested based on a court ordered warrant. However, warrantless arrests by law enforcement officials and citizens can be made in cases where there is probable cause to believe a crime has been or is being committed and in cases where the person to be arrested is an escaped convict or detention prisoner.
Under the law an investigating judge determines whether an arrested person should be detained, released on bail, or released outright. A person may not be held for more than 48 hours without appearing before an investigating judge. Investigative detention is limited to a maximum of six months for each suspected crime. If a formal charge is not filed within that period, the detainee must be released. In cases of serious crimes such as murder or armed robbery, or of those involving more than one suspect, investigative detention may last for up to two years and may be extended by a judge to three years in extraordinary circumstances. A suspect in investigative detention must be brought to trial within 18 months of being charged formally. If a suspect is not in detention, there is no specified period for going to trial. Detainees have access to lawyers from time of arrest, and the government assumes any necessary costs.
In 2004 the IGAI received 17 complaints linked to arbitrary arrests, which were duly investigated.
Lengthy pretrial detention was a problem.
As of December 13, 3,039 individuals (24 percent of the prison population) were in preventive detention, an increase of six percent from the previous year. The average detention time was eight months (down from 26 months), while approximately 20 percent of preventive detainees spent more than one year in prison.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected this provision in practice.
The court system consists of a Constitutional Court, a Supreme Court of Justice, and judicial courts of first and second instance. There is also a Supreme Court of Administration, which handles administrative and tax disputes and is supported by lower administrative courts. There is an audit court in the Ministry of Finance.
There were more than 500 courts in the country, and approximately 3,000 magistrates and judges; however, staff shortages, budget restrictions, court delays, and the lack of computerization continued to be serious problems that contributed to inefficiency and a backlog of cases.
Critics, including the media, business corporations, and legal observers, estimated the backlog of pending trials was at least a year.
Jury trials can be requested for criminal cases but are rare. Civil cases do not have jury trials. Defendants are presumed innocent and have the right of appeal and the right to consult with an attorney in a timely manner, at government expense if needed. They can confront and question witnesses against them, present evidence on their behalf, and have access to government- held evidence. These rights were generally followed in practice.
Political Prisoners and Detainees
There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.
Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies
There is an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters. Citizens have access to a court to bring lawsuits seeking damages for, or cessation of, a human rights violation. There are administrative as well as judicial remedies for alleged wrongs.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The constitution and law prohibit such actions, and the government generally respected these prohibitions in practice.
2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The constitution and law provide for freedom of speech and of the press, and the government generally respected these rights in practice. An independent press and judiciary and a functioning democratic political system combined to ensure freedom of speech and of the press.
There were no government restrictions on access to the Internet or reports that the government monitored e-mail or Internet chatrooms. Individuals and groups could engage in the peaceful expression of views via the Internet, including electronic mail. According to a December survey by the National Statistics Institute, Internet use was approximately 36 percent; however, the rate increased to 80 and 87 percent for high school and university graduates, respectively. By January, Internet access was available in all public elementary and high schools. All federal government offices and 97 percent of hospitals have Internet access.
Academic Freedom and Cultural Events
There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The constitution and law provide for freedom of assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights in practice.
c. Freedom of Religion
The constitution and law provide for freedom of religion, and the government generally respected this right in practice.
The 2001 Religious Freedom Act created a legislative framework for religions established in the country for at least 30 years, or recognized internationally for at least 60 years. The act provides all other qualifying religions with benefits previously reserved for the Catholic Church: full tax-exempt status, legal recognition for marriage and other rites, chaplain visits to prisons and hospitals, and respect for traditional holidays.
The Catholic Church maintains a separate agreement with the government under the terms of the 2004 amended concordat which recognizes the juridical personality of the Portuguese Episcopal Conference and allows the Catholic Church to receive 0.5 percent of the income tax that citizens can allocate to various institutions in their annual tax returns.
Societal Abuses and Discrimination
The Jewish population was approximately 700. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts. Government efforts to promote religious tolerance included the president's participation in a ceremony in 2005 to commemorate the anniversary of the founding of Lisbon's 19th century synagogue, which was restored for religious services and cultural events. On April 19, in a ceremony in a public square in downtown Lisbon, citizens marked the 500th anniversary of the killing of thousands of Jews who had been forced by the state to convert to Christianity. City officials unveiled a small memorial at the site, and the event received significant media coverage.
For a more detailed discussion, see the 2006 International Religious Freedom Report.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
The constitution and law provide for these rights, and the government generally respected them in practice.
The law prohibits forced exile, and the government did not employ it.
Protection of Refugees
The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status in accordance with the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 protocol, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. In practice, the government provided protection against refoulement, the return of persons to a country where they feared persecution. The government granted refugee status or asylum.
The country's system for granting refugee status was active and accessible.
During the year the government also provided temporary protection to individuals who may not qualify as refugees under the 1951 convention and 1967 protocol, although the exact number was not available.
The government cooperated with the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees and asylum seekers.
3. Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
The constitution and law provide citizens with the right to change their government peacefully, and citizens exercised this right in practice through periodic, free, and fair elections based on universal suffrage.
Elections and Political Parties
Free and fair national parliamentary elections were held in February 2005. The Socialist Party won a ruling majority, ending a governing coalition between the Social Democrat Party (PSD) and the Christian Democrat/People's Party.
There were 61 women in the 230-member parliament and two women in the cabinet. There were no members of minorities in parliament or the cabinet.
Government Corruption and Transparency
There were no reports of corruption in the executive or legislative branches of government during the year; however, there were media reports of corruption involving local government officials. The most high-profile corruption cases involved mayors Fatima Felgueiras, Valentim Loureiro, and Isaltino Morais. Felgueiras (Socialist Party), self-exiled to Brazil from 2003-05 to escape arrest, was accused of embezzlement and abuse of power. Loureiro, PSD mayor and president of the Portuguese Professional Soccer League, was accused of corruption and influencing of referees in Portuguese soccer. Morais (PSD) was accused of tax evasion, corruption, and money laundering. All three were awaiting trial at year's end.
The constitution and law provide for public access to government information, and the government provided access in practice for citizens and non-citizens, including foreign media.
4. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
A number of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were cooperative and responsive to their views; however, most of the groups continued to complain about the slow pace of investigations and remedial actions.
The country has an independent human rights ombudsman who is responsible for defending human rights, freedom, privileges, and the legitimate rights of all citizens. The ombudsman had adequate resources and published mandatory annual reports and special reports on such issues as women's rights, prisons, and the rights of children and senior citizens.
Within parliament there is an independent First Committee for Constitutional Issues, Rights, and Liberties and Privileges, which has oversight over human rights issues. It drafts and submits bills and petitions for parliamentary approval. During the year these included bills on establishing the Legal Assistance Institute (to provide legal representation for indigent clients), combating corruption in sports, approving a referendum on the decriminalization of abortion, and improving immigrants' rights.
5. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The constitution and law prohibit discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, and social status; however, discrimination against women and ethnic minorities persisted.
Violence against women, including domestic violence, continued to be a problem. While there was no clear evidence that violence against women increased, more cases of violence were reported. In 2005 the government established the Portuguese Structure against Domestic Violence (EMCVD), which launched a nationwide awareness campaign against domestic violence, trained health professionals, proposed legislation to improve legal assistance to victims, increased the number of safe houses for victims of domestic violence, and signed protocols with local authorities to assist victims. In July President Cavaco Silva toured several northern districts to raise awareness of domestic violence.
Of the nearly 7,070 cases of violence reported during the first six months of the year to the Association for Victim Support (APAV), more than 86 percent involved domestic violence. The APAV is a nonprofit, charitable organization that provides confidential and free services nationwide to victims of any type of crime. (Most reported domestic violence cases are registered by the PSP and GNR, who redirect victims to APAV for assistance.)
According to a women's rights NGO, the Union of Women Alternative and Response, 39 women were killed by their husbands or partners in the 12 month period that ended in November.
The law provides for criminal penalties in cases of violence by a spouse, and the judicial system prosecuted persons accused of abusing women; however, traditional societal attitudes still discouraged many battered women from using the judicial system.
According to the head of the government-sponsored Mission Against Domestic Violence, only 10 percent of cases were brought to trial. The vast majority were resolved outside of the court system by lawyers who mediated between the parties. In 2005 according to the Ministry of Justice, there were 870 court cases related to domestic violence and only 460 prosecutions.
The government's Commission for Equality and Women's Rights ran 14 safe houses for victims of domestic violence and also maintained a 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week phone service. The safe house services included food, shelter, and health and legal assistance.
The law specifically makes rape, including spousal rape, illegal, and the government generally enforced these laws. However, statistics were not available for the number of abusers who were prosecuted, convicted, or punished.
Prostitution was legal and common, and there were reports of violence against prostitutes. Only pimping, running brothels, and the procurement of prostitutes are illegal and legally punishable. Trafficking in women for the purpose of sexual exploitation continued to be a problem (see section 5, Trafficking).
Sexual harassment is a crime if perpetrated by a superior in the workplace. The penalty is two to three years in prison.
The Commission on Equality in the Workplace and in Employment (CITE), which is composed of representatives of the government, employers' organizations, and labor unions, is empowered to examine, but not adjudicate, complaints of sexual harassment. Reporting of sexual harassment was on the rise. According to a study conducted by the Higher Institute for Labor and Entrepreneurial Sciences and published by CITE, one out of three women has been a victim of sexual harassment, which ranged from offensive gazes to sexual propositions, insults, and threats of coerced or unwelcome touching.
The civil code provides women with full legal equality with men; however, in practice women experienced economic and other forms of discrimination. Of the 367,312 students enrolled in higher education in the 2005-06 school year, 55 percent were women. Although women made up 46 percent of the working population and increasingly were represented in business, science, academia, and the professions, their average salaries were about 30 percent less than men's.
Discrimination by employers against pregnant workers and new mothers was a common problem.
The government was strongly committed to children's rights and welfare. Nine years of compulsory, free, and universal education were provided for children through the age of 15. The majority of children attended school; however, 45 percent dropped out before completing high school. The government also provided preschool education for children age four and older.
The government provided free or low cost health care for all children until the age of 15; girls and boys had equal access.
Child abuse was a problem. The nonprofit APAV reported 97 cases of crimes against children under 18 years old during the first six months of the year. Approximately 85 percent of the cases involved domestic violence.
The high-profile trial of a pedophilia operation at the Casa Pia children's home in Lisbon that began in November 2004 continued at year's end. The eight defendants faced charges ranging from procurement and rape to homosexual acts with adolescents and sexual abuse of minors for abusing 46 children.
Trafficking of children for sexual exploitation and forced labor remained a problem (see section 5, Trafficking).
Trafficking in Persons
The law prohibits trafficking in persons; however, there were reports that persons were trafficked to, from, or within the country. The law also criminalizes the trafficking of children under 16 years of age for the purpose of sexual exploitation.
The country is primarily a destination and transit point for women, men, and children trafficked from Brazil, Eastern Europe, and, to a lesser extent, Africa. Some victims were trafficked to the country for forced labor. The majority of victims from Brazil were trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Approximately 5,000 women, mostly Brazilians, were trafficked to the country annually.
Trafficked persons generally lived in hiding in poor conditions, with little or no sanitation facilities and in cramped spaces. Some trafficked workers were not paid, and some were "housed" within the factory or construction site. Moldovan, Russian, and Ukrainian organized crime groups reportedly conducted most of the trafficking of Eastern Europeans. The traffickers frequently demanded additional payments and a share of earnings following their victims' arrival in the country, usually under threat of physical harm. They often withheld the identification documents of the trafficked persons and threatened to harm family members who remained in the country of origin.
The government increased its anti-trafficking efforts during the year and reported that it actively dismantled trafficking networks in 2005, reducing their overall presence in the country. The government continued to cooperate with other European law enforcement agencies in trafficking investigations. In November 2005 it signed an agreement with Spanish police to strengthen border control, which included a joint police team to address trafficking and smuggling.
Each law that can be applied to traffickers, such as facilitating the illegal entry of persons, employing an illegal immigrant, false documentation, extortion, fraud, and sexual exploitation, carries a penalty of between one and eight years' imprisonment. By citing the violation of multiple provisions, judges have handed down longer sentences. While the government prosecuted 45 traffickers during 2004, the latest period for which data was available, only two of 27 traffickers convicted served prison time; the remaining 25 received suspended sentences.
The government provided subsidies for victims to receive shelter, employment, education, access to medical services, and assistance in family reunification. The government also provided legal residency to many trafficking victims, although most victims were repatriated. Some NGOs assisted the government in tracking and reintegrating trafficking victims. Victims who initially were detained were later transferred to NGOs for protection and assistance. The government operated 20 National Immigrant Support Centers throughout the country to provide immigrants, including trafficking victims, with multi-lingual information and assistance. In 2005 the government renewed funding for NGOs to provide shelter and assistance to trafficking victims and victims of other crimes.
The government sponsored antitrafficking information campaigns and public service announcements throughout the year. It broadcasted various programs on state-run channels to educate and inform the general public, including potential trafficking victims and consumers. In 2005 the government developed and disseminated a national antitrafficking action plan to address trafficking more systematically. The plan provided for the establishment of a statistics-gathering unit within the Ministry of Interior to monitor more effectively and adjust the government's approach to combating trafficking.
Persons with Disabilities
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in employment, education, access to health care, or the provision of other state services, and the government effectively enforced the law. The law also mandates access to public buildings for such persons, and the government enforced these provisions in practice; however, no such legislation covers private businesses or other facilities.
The Ministry of Labor and Social Solidarity oversees the National Bureau for the Rehabilitation and Integration of Persons with Disabilities, which is responsible for the protection, professional training, rehabilitation, and integration of persons with disabilities, and enforcement of related legislation.
The government effectively protected the civil and political rights of minority groups. The principal minority groups were immigrants, legal and illegal, from the country's former African colonies, Brazil, and Eastern Europe. Approximately 500,000 legal immigrants lived in the country, representing an estimated 5 percent of the population. The country also had a resident Romani population of approximately 50,000.
6. Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
The law provides workers with the right to form or join unions of their choice without previous authorization or excessive requirements, and they exercised this right in practice. Approximately 35 percent of the total workforce was unionized.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
The law allows unions to conduct their activities without interference, and the government protected this right in practice. The right to organize and bargain collectively was recognized and exercised freely in practice.
The law provides for the right to strike, and workers exercised this right in practice. During the year there were strikes in the education, health, transportation, and agriculture sectors. If a long strike occurs in an essential sector such as justice, health, energy, or transportation, the government may order the strikers back to work for a specific period. The government rarely has invoked this power.
Police officers and members of the armed forces may not strike legally, but they have unions and recourse within the legal system.
There are no export processing zones.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The law prohibits forced and compulsory labor, including by children; however, there were reports that such practices occurred (see section 5).
d. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment
The government effectively implemented laws and policies to protect children from exploitation in the workplace.
The minimum working age is 16 years. There were instances of child labor, but the overall incidence was small and was concentrated geographically and by sector. The greatest problems were reported in Braga, Porto, and Faro and tended to occur in the clothing, footwear, construction, and hotel industries.
According to the government's last major study on child labor in 2001, approximately 48,900 children between ages six and 15 engaged in some form of economic activity. Of that number, 85.3 percent were unpaid family workers, 14.7 percent worked for third parties, and 98.6 percent attended school. Of these children, 48.4 percent were employed in the agricultural sector, 12.4 percent in manufacturing, and 8.9 percent in construction. Of the children that worked, the vast majority worked 15 hours or less per week; however, about 11 percent worked more than 35 hours per week.
The government's principal body to address, monitor, and respond to reports of child labor is the Plan for the Elimination of Exploitation of Child Labor. The Ministry of Labor and Social Solidarity is responsible for enforcing child labor laws, and it did so effectively.
There were reports that Romanian minors often were used for street begging (see section 5).
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The monthly minimum wage, which covers full-time workers, rural workers, and domestic employees ages 18 and older, was approximately $484 (385.90 euros) and did not provide a decent standard of living for a worker and family. However, widespread rent controls and basic food and utility subsidies increased the standard of living. Most workers received higher wages, with the General Confederation of Portuguese Workers estimating an average monthly salary of approximately $916 (763.20 euros), excluding public servants.
The maximum legal workday is 10 hours, and the maximum workweek is 40 hours. There is a maximum of two hours of paid overtime per day and 200 hours of overtime per year, with a minimum of 12 hours between workdays. The Ministry of Labor and Social Solidarity effectively monitored compliance through its regional inspectors.
Employers legally are responsible for accidents at work and are required by law to carry accident insurance. The General Directorate of Hygiene and Labor Security develops safety standards in line with European Union standards, and the general labor inspectorate is responsible for their enforcement. According to the Inspectorate General for Labor, there were 151 deaths from work-related accidents this year, the lowest death rate in the past five years. Workers injured on the job rarely initiated lawsuits. Workers have the right to remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, and the authorities effectively enforced this right.