The judicial investigation into alleged complicity by Portuguese authorities with the illegal transfer of prisoners to Guantánamo Bay was closed in May on the grounds of lack of evidence. Two former Guantánamo Bay detainees took up residency in Portugal. Domestic violence led to numerous deaths. Investigations into allegations of torture by law enforcement officials proceeded slowly, with evidence of impunity.
Counter-terror and security
At the end of May the judicial investigation into suspected CIA rendition flights and other illegal transfers of prisoners to Guantánamo Bay alleged to have crossed through Portuguese territory was closed by the public prosecutor on the grounds of insufficient evidence. Ana Gomes, a Portuguese member of the European Parliament, submitted an appeal in July calling for the investigation to be continued, arguing that it had been inadequate. She cited numerous shortcomings, including the failure to take testimony from relevant intelligence service officials, the foreign affairs and defence ministers, former prime ministers, US embassy officials, or the directors of the Portuguese Civil Aviation Institute and air traffic control authorities. She also criticized the failure of the prosecutor to request clarification from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about whether its exceptional authorizations to the USA allowing “the transport of contentious material and people” included the transfer of prisoners to secret detention centres. The appeal was rejected in September by the public prosecutor, who stated that the additional investigatory measures requested were “irrelevant”.
On 28 August, two Syrian detainees at Guantánamo Bay were released and transferred to Portugal. They were not able to return to Syria due to the risk of torture and other serious human rights violations. The Portuguese government granted both men residence permits on humanitarian grounds, and confirmed that no charges would be brought against them.
Violence against women and girls
The Portuguese Association for Victim Support registered 15,904 complaints concerning domestic violence in 2009. These included 16 murders.
Torture and other ill-treatment
Criminal investigations into allegations of torture and other ill-treatment by law enforcement officials continued in 2009.
- On 22 May the Criminal Court of Faro issued its sentence in the case of the torture of Leonor Cipriano. The court recognized that she had been tortured in police custody in 2004, but acquitted all three police officers, claiming that it was impossible to identify exactly who had been responsible. A fourth officer was convicted of giving false testimony and another was convicted of falsifying documents. Leonor Cipriano’s appeal was pending at the end of the year.
- By the end of the year, no trial date had been set for three judicial police officers accused of torturing Virgolino Borges in March 2000. The case was due to go to trial in November 2008 but was delayed pending further medical examinations requested by the defence. Virgolino Borges said that he had been tortured by police officers who punched him and beat him on the soles of his feet with a wooden post while in custody. The investigation had been closed in 2005 by the public prosecutor, who stated that Virgolino Borges’ injuries could have been self-inflicted. Virgolino Borges appealed against this decision to the Lisbon region courts: first to the Tribunal de Instrução and then to the Tribunal da Relação, which in November 2005 ordered that the case go to trial.