At least six people died as a result of lethal force by police during 2006, again raising long-standing concerns about the possibly unnecessary or disproportionate use of force. Police trade union leaders have blamed inadequate training for such killings. Officers also lacked sufficient guidelines on use of weapons.
• On 3 October, one man was killed and another gravely injured during a police chase of a car carrying four young men in Porto. A police officer fired five shots at the vehicle, allegedly aiming for the tyres but killing one occupant and injuring another. After the vehicle came to a halt, the survivors, including the seriously injured man, were reportedly assaulted by the police although they had surrendered themselves. The case was under investigation by the Homicide Brigade of the Porto Judicial Police. The General Inspectorate of Internal Administration also opened an inquiry. The driver of the vehicle was charged with disobeying police orders and dangerous driving.
According to the Directorate General of Prison Services in May, 70 per cent of prisons were operating over their intended capacity and three of them - Portimão, Angra do Heroísmo and Guimarães - at more than double the designated number of prisoners. Overcrowding reduced the resources available for each prisoner and exacerbated poor hygiene conditions and the transmission of infectious diseases. Of a total of 91 prisoners' deaths in 2006, 74 were from illness, 14 were suicides and three were recorded as homicide.
In June Minister of Justice Alberto Costa announced government plans to close 22 prisons and enlarge others, increasing total capacity from 12,000 to 14,500 places. Most of the prisons were scheduled to close over the next three years, raising concerns about the impact on conditions in remaining prisons.
Violence against women
Of all violent incidents reported to the Portuguese Association of Victim Support, 86 per cent related to domestic violence. Many were not reported to the police. Under-reporting hampered justice in individual cases and also impeded efforts to tackle domestic violence across society by hiding its full extent and nature. Thirty-nine women died as a result of domestic violence between November 2005 and November 2006.
Reforms to the penal code proposed in April included defining domestic violence to include ill-treatment between unmarried, same-sex and former couples, as well as abuse between parents and children. If the violence takes place within the family home, this will be considered an aggravating factor.
Incidents of racist discrimination continued to be reported nationwide. The Commission for Equality and Against Racial Discrimination reported that in the previous six years it had received 190 complaints. Of these, only two had resulted in a fine and 60 cases were still pending. Insufficient resources resulted in cases taking two or three years to resolve, and many were shelved for lack of evidence, contributing to impunity for acts of racism.
Rights of migrants
An immigration law passed in August included measures to provide residence permits to victims of trafficking. However, such permits would be available only to those who collaborated with the police, risking undue pressure being brought on victims at risk of reprisals.
AI country reports/visits
• Europe and Central Asia: Summary of Amnesty International's concerns in the region, January-June 2006 (AI Index: EUR 01/017/2006)