Portuguese Republic

Head of state: Jorge Fernando Branco de Sampaio
Head of government: Antonio Manuel de Oliveira Guterres
Capital: Lisbon
Population: 9.9 million
Official language: Portuguese
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes

Prisoners continued to face cruel, inhuman and degrading conditions, and frequent acts of violence by prison staff, as well as other inmates, were reported. Allegations were made about ill-treatment and illegal detention by law enforcement officers and judicial inquiries were opened, or continued, in relation to a number of ill-treatment cases.

Prisons: a continuing 'scandal'

Although investment in prisons increased and steps were taken to renovate some buildings and improve benefits and facilities, prisoners claimed conditions continued to constitute what President Jorge Sampaio had called a "real national scandal" the previous year. The allegations referred to severe overcrowding, poor standards of hygiene and medical neglect; continuing proliferation, in some places, of cockroaches, fleas and rats; the spread and fear of contagious diseases such as tuberculosis; an escalation in the numbers of prisoners with HIV and AIDS; and widespread drug addiction.

After a new inspection, the Ombudsman for Justice recognized that the authorities had made an "appreciable" effort to improve living and hygiene conditions during the previous two years, but stated that the general situation remained "as black or blacker than in 1996", the year of his critical prison report, largely owing to the pressures caused by drug dependency and the rise in infectious diseases.

Some prisoners claimed they had been ill-treated by prison guards. Allegations were made by prisoners at Linhó (Sintra) that the prison governor and head of custodial staff seemed powerless to prevent beatings of inmates by guards "almost every day". The prison authorities rejected the accusations, stressing the existence of "organized violence" by prisoners. In July, after one prisoner was transferred to a security wing and allegedly beaten by guards, about 200 prisoners in wing B of Linhó protested by refusing to eat. In another incident at Linhó, prisoners demanded to inspect the security wing after an inmate held for 30 days in a disciplinary cell had reportedly been subdued with baton beatings and tear gas; a visit was authorized. There were also allegations of ill-treatment of prisoners at Pinheiro da Cruz and Angra do Heroísmo prisons. A group of prisoners had earlier signed an open letter in which they described a climate of fear and ill-treatment at Pinheiro da Cruz. This was denied by the General Directorate of Prison Services.

  • António Palma, a prisoner at Pinheiro da Cruz, who was undergoing psychiatric treatment, was allegedly ill-treated in August when he refused to be locked into his cell at the end of the day. A group of between eight and 10 guards, accompanied by two dogs and armed with batons and a riot shield, reportedly beat him to the ground, leaving weals and abrasions across his back. He was taken to the prison infirmary and injected with medication, apparently against his will. Concern was expressed that the number of guards and the dogs and equipment brought in to subdue the prisoner was a use of disproportionate force. An inquiry was opened.

National Republican Guard unit accused of ill-treatment

Allegations of ill-treatment by law enforcement officers were reported both before and after May, when the Regulations on the Material Conditions of Detention in Police Establishments came into force. Introducing the regulations, the Minister of Internal Administration expressed the belief that, while conditions for suspects in police custody had been a "frequent object of criticism by international and human rights institutions and organizations", the situation had improved in recent years and "it is now important to ensure that it does not deteriorate". The regulations, which affect both the Public Security Police (PSP) and the National Republican Guard (GNR), set out a large number of detailed requirements for improving conditions in police custody. They stipulate that all detainees must be treated with humanity and dignity and all arrests must be registered at the police station or command post.

  • A GNR infantry sergeant claimed in August that, despite the new regulations, ill-treatment of detainees was "virtually systematic" between May and July at a post in Anadia (Aveiro) which he had commanded for almost 18 years. He claimed that, after reporting ill-treatment to his immediate superior, as required by the new regulations, he had been transferred from the post and an inquiry had been opened into allegations that he had committed "illegal acts". He described four cases in which he claimed detainees had been illegally detained or ill-treated at the post by a three-officer Criminal Investigation Unit (NIC). The sergeant claimed that no food or medical care had been provided to detainees, one of whom was suffering from eye, wrist, arm and back injuries as a result of beatings, and that other arrests had not been registered.

In November the General Inspectorate of Internal Administration (IGAI) stated that it had opened an inquiry into the sergeant's specific allegations as well as into the general functioning of the NIC, owing to reports that the NIC had ill-treated and illegally arrested suspects. However, IGAI stated that the disciplinary proceedings being taken against the sergeant were in no way connected with the allegations he had made against the NIC.

  • Jorge Manuel da Conceição Simões, a former drug addict undergoing rehabilitation, complained that in May he was taken to the Anadia post after being arrested on suspicion of possessing drugs and beaten about the head and chest when he refused to sign a confession. He was later treated for his injuries at Anadia District Hospital. He claimed he had not taken drugs since February 1998 but that the GNR officers visited his workplace after he refused to sign the confession and reported that he had stolen to feed a drug habit. As a result he lost his job.

Alleged ill-treatment by PSP officers

There was concern that in some cases PSP officers had not only failed to register an arrest at the police station but had driven detainees to remote places in order to carry out ill-treatment.

  • Marco Fernandes, also called Marco Filipe, was known to police as a petty criminal. He claimed that one early morning in September, as he was standing with friends in a street in Funchal, Madeira, he saw two police officers from the Câmara de Lobos station. He attempted to flee but was caught and beaten about the head with a police radio. He was bundled into a car and driven to Cape Girão, several hundred feet above sea level. His head was covered and the officers held him at the top of the cliff, threatening to throw him over. He was then forced to crawl back to the car. While being driven away, his head, which was bleeding, was held out of the door and he was made to undress and clean away the blood at a well. He alleged he was almost strangled with a piece of iron and kicked in the mouth and stomach before being left to find his own way home. A piece of iron and a police radio were reportedly found later, the latter broken. Marco Fernandes received treatment for his injuries at the Hospital Cruz de Carvalho. He and his mother lodged a judicial complaint against the officers and judicial and disciplinary proceedings were opened. Now 19 years old, Marco Fernandes was one of the children from poor areas of the city, such as Câmara de Lobos, who were abused in 1991 by members of a paedophile ring. Since then a large number of inquiries into crimes of child abuse and paedophilia against street children have taken place in Madeira and have led to prosecutions, but an inquiry into police ill-treatment of the children was never pursued by the public prosecutor, despite confirmation by the Ombudsman's Office that ill-treatment had occurred.


An inquiry by the criminal investigation department of the Lisbon public prosecutor's office concluded without being able to establish that the death of Olívio Almada, whose body was discovered in the Tagus river in 1996, was directly connected with his arrest by PSP officers. However, it found that the officers, who had driven him away in a car without taking him to the police station or registering his arrest, had acted illegally, and they were committed for trial in November. Disciplinary procedures ordered against the officers by the PSP General Command were continuing.

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