A report by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) said that Portugal is one of the European countries with the highest rates of police violence.
Newspaper Público, citing the document and its authors, revealed that Portugal was towards the “top of Western European countries with the greatest number of cases involving police brutality.”
The CPT report, Público ‘s piece added, says Portuguese and foreigners of African descent are at greatest risk of being discriminated against by police while being arrested or held in custody.
The risk of abuse is greater for Portuguese and foreign Afro-descendants, which indicates racial discrimination by the security forces at the time of detention and during the period when people are in their care, the report highlighted.
The Committee, which released a report on the state of affairs in Portugal on Tuesday, lamented a “lack” of “conscience” on behalf of Portugal’s Internal Affairs Ministry (MAI) that there is a “high risk of mistreatment by the Public Security Police (PSP) or the GNR.”
In response to Público’s report, and having been approached by the newspaper for reply, the MAI said, “The training of police incorporates the priority given to human rights and firm opposition to any xenophobic or racist practices, contributing to a good evaluation of Portugal as an inclusive and tolerant country”.
On top of that, any “violations of the law are investigated by the security forces themselves, by the IGAI [General Inspection of Internal Administration], and immediately passed on to the Public Prosecutor’s Office.”
Nonetheless, the CoE committee’s report stresses “measures should be urgently adopted to ensure the investigation of cases, in particular by extending the IGAI’s competences and human resources”.
The CPT, whose full title is the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, makes surprise visits to institutions holding people deprived of their freedom.
It was established by a Convention of the same name, which was adopted in 1989 and ratified by 47 Member States.
The delegation was in Portugal between 27 September and 7 October 2016, although concerns about police violence in this country had already been raised in its 2013 report, which drew attention to a lack of sanctions.
The comparisons are drawn from hundreds of interviews conducted in Portugal, and in other countries, with people in such institutions as prisons and prison hospitals, who have had contact with police, according to the CPT.

Prisons under CPT spotlight
Meanwhile, the CPT’s report also flagged the situation at the Monsanto high-security prison in Lisbon, which it says has not made any improvements since 2013, and claimed most inmates at the unit are locked in their cells for between 21 and 22 hours a day.
On Monsanto, the report says it is “urgent” that the authorities take measures to allow inmates to have more activities and human contact during their time in prison.
The CPT also recommends that inmates at Monsanto receive visits from family members without physical separation once a week, except in cases where this puts security at risk.
The CPT takes the view that such contact is fundamental for the reintegration of inmates.
The report also records allegations of abuse in the use of high-security cells, where the most agitated inmates are at times locked for up to 10 days.
It calls for a more restrictive use of these cells, saying they should not be used purely for disciplinary purposes, but to protect the inmates.
The CPT further criticised the way medication is given to prisoners, particularly at Monsanto and in Lisbon’s main prison, the EPL.
According to Lusa News Agency, during their visit, the CPT delegation heard complaints about ill treatment in police custody, as well as about the conditions of detention and treatment in police stations.
These included allegations of detainees being assaulted with blows and kicks to the body and to the head and, on other occasions, with police batons.
The CPT notes that many of the complaints of ill treatment and assault by police officers came from detainees of foreign citizenship, allegedly with the aim of obtaining a confession.
It recommended that steps be taken to avoid such behaviour by the police.
The delegation looked into several cases that were being investigated by inspectors of the PJ criminal police.
It stressed the need for such investigations to be backed up by forensic medical examinations. It also called for disciplinary proceedings to go ahead in parallel with criminal cases, and asked the Portuguese authorities to consider turning the main inspection institution into a fully independent body.
The CPT recommends that all detainees be guaranteed access to a family member or someone they trust, as well as to a lawyer.
Most complainants interviewed by the CPT reported that they only had the right to a court-appointed lawyer when taken to court, after the 48-hour limit for their detention.