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Chief Justice Lewandowski takes to the IACH the experience of Custody Hearings

The president of the National Council of Justice (CNJ) and Chief Justice of the Brazilian Federal Supreme Court (STF), Ricardo Lewandowski, presented the main achievements in human rights and in the provision of justice obtained by the Custody Hearing program, during a public hearing at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on Tuesday (20/10). The event in the organ of the Organization of American States (OAS) is part of the official agenda of the justice in Washington (USA), which started on Monday (19) and continues until the end of this afternoon.

The initiative developed by the CNJ in partnership with federal and local authorities was praised by several members of the IACHR, which also asked questions to the President and expressed interest in the methodology and ways for expansion of custody hearings in the country. "In this first presentation, I certainly see that it is a welcome initiative as it breaks the traditional logic of incarceration," said Commissioner Felipe González, the oldest member of the council.

With an extensive experience in human rights advocacy in Brazil in the 1990s, the commissioner James Cavallaro said that the hearing at the IACHR was essential to know new practices developed by Brazil in the field of criminal justice and of prison system. "When I was a representative of Brazilian civil society, this was a recurring theme and there was decades of fight. So it is a tremendous pleasure to record this achievement and congratulate everyone for the role they had on this’’, he said.

The importance of the project and the need to expand the range of custody hearings were also highlighted by the Executive Secretary Emilio Álvarez Icaza and the President Rose-Marie Antoine. "We are always interested in learning something new about  human rights advances, and it is great to see the passion and commitment to provide justice," noted the president.


In his presentation, the Chief Justice Lewandowski said that the custody hearings are an important step of Brazil in combating the culture of incarceration and the culture of police abuse during the detentions. "We are promoting a real revolution in order to make a cultural change in the country," said the Justice. "A simple procedural act may be changing the axles and paradigms in which are based the performance of judges and actors in the criminal justice system," he added.

In addition to enforcing the Constitution regarding the rights of prisoners, the Justice noted that the project was a pioneer in giving concreteness to international human rights treaties of which Brazil is a signatory. He also pointed out that, unlike that provided for some sectors, crime has not increased with the implementation of the project-data collected in Espírito Santo and Goiás, indicating that the recurrence of the aimed by the project was less than 3%.


Civil society representatives involved in the monitoring of the project presented suggestions for its consolidation and improvement. For the spokesmen of Global Justice, of Conectas Human rights and the Institute for the Defense of the right of Defense (IDDD), you have to invest in the regulation of custody hearings and in more effective ways to investigate cases of police torture. The representatives also recommended constant monitoring and provision of data, as well as training of judges in human rights.
The entities still showed the initiative of the judiciary to resolve the criminal situation in the country, with the necessary involvement of other powers and of society is not enough. "It is undeniable the pioneering spirit and the dedication of the CNJ, but the IDDD believes that only custody hearings will not be able to root out ills of the Brazilian criminal system," said the Executive Director Isadora Fingermann. "We need more profound structural changes and structuring larger policy to break the culture of incarceration", pointed out Natália Damazio, of Global Justice.

The Chief Justice Ricardo Lewandowski noted that the implementation of custody hearing is only the beginning of a long process of change in the way to distribute Justice, even going on for other projects in progress in the CNJ, as Citizenship in jails and the lighthouse. "We still have a lot to achieve and even improve, in this clash of mindsets that is promoting. Okay, just, is believed to have given an important step in the desired direction, "he said.

Source: CNJ

Photo credit: Daniel Cima/IACHR

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