U.N. concerned by arbitrary arrests in Brazil

A woman argues with a riot policeman as she is evicted from the former Indigenous Museum, next to the Maracana stadium, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, March 22, 2013. It is set to be pulled down to construct a parking lot for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Christophe Simon/AFP/Getty Images

BRASILIA, Brazil A United Nations fact-finding mission voiced concern on Thursday over what it said is a rising number of arbitrary arrests in Brazil as the country prepares to host the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic games.

A riot policeman use tear gas against demonstrators at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on March 22, 2013.
Vanderlei Almeida/AFP/Getty Images

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded a 10-day visit to Brazil to investigate allegations of "arbitrary deprivation of liberty" in five cities.

"Our concern is that Brazil will try to put its best face forward ahead of these two events and implement a kind of cleanup campaign that could increase the number detentions of people who may commit crimes," mission member Roberto Garreton said at a news conference.

The group did not say how many of Brazil's 550,000 inmates had been arrested arbitrarily. However, it said that more than 200,000 of them are still awaiting trial.

The government had no immediate comment.

The mission's preliminary report said Brazil tends to detain dug users in an arbitrary fashion and added, "The Working Group is seriously concerned with information that these measures (arrest of drug users) are strongly enforced due to forthcoming major events such as the Football Association World Cup in 2014 and the Summer Olympic Games in 2016 which Brazil will host."

Group member Vladimir Tochilovsky said the inability of most Brazilians to hire attorneys and the lack of sufficient public defenders were also worrisome.

He said Brazilian judges tend to prefer to order the incarceration of suspects without first considering alternative sentences.

"According to international human rights law, the detention should be the exception, the last measure to be considered by the judge is the arrest; he should consider alternative measures that were introduced in the law in 2011 in Brazil, "he said. "But when we look at the statistics, not much changed after 2011, the main provisional measure in Brazil is still the arrest."

The group is expected to present is final report to the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2014.

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