UN calls for investigation after torture and decapitation video highlights scale of violence in Brazilian prisons

A National Council of Justice report cites overcrowding as the main factor behind the creation of criminal factions among inmates

brasilia

A video showing three tortured and decapitated inmates in a Brazilian prison has prompted the United Nations to request an investigation into prison violence in the northern state of Maranhao.

The video, published this week on the website of Brazilian newspaper Folha de S. Paulo, has drawn attention to gang violence in Pedrinhas prison in state capital Sao Luis. Sixty people were killed last year in the Maranhao penitentiary system, according to the National Council of Justice.

“We regret having to, once again, express concern at the dire state of prisons in Brazil,” the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a statement. The UN urges “authorities to take immediate action to restore order in Pedrinhas prison and other prisons throughout the country, as well as to reduce overcrowding.”

There are 800 prison deaths a year in Brazil, according to Jose Vicente da Silva Filho, a consultant for Sao Paulo’s military police and former National Security Secretary.

“Barbaric law rules in the prisons where it’s so crowded people sleep standing up,” Mr Silva Filho said. “It’s a scene of total terror where new prisoners make alliances with the groups in control, and authorities negotiate with criminal factions.”

The Justice Ministry helped transfer 22 inmates allegedly involved in the violence to federal facilities. The National Council of Justice report cites overcrowding as the main factor behind the creation of criminal prison factions.

Attorney General Rodrigo Janot is considering recommending measures that would strip powers from the governor and temporarily install federal control.

Maranhao prisons, which are designed to hold 3,421 inmates, have 4,663 prisoners, according to the state government press office.

Federal public safety troops have been present in the capital of the northern state since October, and Justice Minister Jose Eduardo Cardozo has asked that they remain in the prisons until 23 February. The troops will work with a division commanded by the state’s military police to reinforce security in prisons in the Sao Luis metropolitan area.

The federal government from 2003 to 2013 sent 55 million reais (£14m) to Maranhao to add 1,621 spaces in the state penitentiary system. The money for two of the seven units to be built was returned after the project wasn’t completed within the 18-month deadline, the Justice Ministry said.

Maranhao is the second-least developed state in Brazil, with the country’s lowest income, according to the UN Human Development Index.

Brazil has around 550,000 prison inmates, according to a UN report.

© Bloomberg

Video: Report on Brazil prison beheadings

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Stiller as Derek Zoolander in the leaked trailer for Zoolander 2
film
Sport
footballArsenal take the Community Shield thanks to a sensational strike from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Arts and Entertainment
Gemma Chan as synth Anita in Humans
film
News
Keeping it friendly: Tom Cruise on ‘The Daily Show’ with Jon Stewart
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ensemble cast: Jamie McCartney with ‘The Great Wall of Vagina’
artBritish artist Jamie McCartney explains a work that is designed to put women's minds at rest
News
Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for an I...

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen