Reflections on Disappearance of People and Covid-19

Enforced disappearance is a growing phenomenon in Brazil, but there is few studies of it outside the context of the military dictatorship. The disappearance of people is a multifaceted violation of human rights that also occurs in democratic contexts, through the action or omission of state agents for public security, especially within the prison system.

During the Brazilian Military Dictatorship started in 1964, the enforced disappearance generated an unknown number of victims. Even though the National Truth Commission recorded in its reports 434 dead and missing persons, there is an invisible contingent of unclaimed missing persons, not considered (mistakenly) as a result of the dictatorial violence and there are even those who did not enter the final count due to lack of documentation evidence of the disappearance.

Among missing persons there are women, black people, indigenous people, and other segments that remain without the “privilege” of being considered victims of enforced disappearance (Flauzina, Ana and Freitas, Fábio. Do paradoxal privilégio de ser vítima: terror de estado e a negação do sofrimento negro no Brasil, Revista brasileira de ciências criminaisNº. 135, 2017). It is worth to remember the case of the indigenous people who suffered from human hunts promoted with machine guns and dynamites thrown from planes, purposeful inoculations of smallpox, and donations of sugar mixed with strychnine during the years of dictatorship. These episodes were unknown until the discovery in 2013 of the Report written by the then-attorney Jader de Figueiredo Correia, 45 years after it was written. The number of indigenous people and communities that have suffered from cruel torture, deaths and enforced disappearance in the hands of the military and paramilitary forces during the dictatorship is incalculable.

 Enforced Disappearance is considered to be the “arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the State or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization, support or acquiescence of the State, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which place such a person outside the protection of the law”, as advocated by the article 2 of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. This definition highlights the role of the State in the crime of enforced disappearance. In Brazil, in post-dictatorial times, the number of enforced disappearances remains high, despite not occurring for political motivation, most of times. Daily police violence has claimed many victims, as it is the emblematic case of João Pedro’s death by police in Rio de Janeiro last April. João Pedro was playing in the yard when he was shot and taken, without his family’s knowledge, by a Police helicopter. Only the next day the family discovered the whereabouts of the boy’s body.

In another context, the National Mechanism for Preventing and Combating Torture, an organ created in 2013, drew attention to the occurrence of people disappearing in prisons in Brazil. According to the 2018 Recommendations Monitoring Report, the “Massacre at the Alcaçuz State Penitentiary gathered evidence of enforced disappearance practices at that time, such as the existence of incinerated bodies, buried in makeshift ditches or thrown into septic tanks at the time of the Massacre”. Such practices may be taking place in other prisons, especially after massacres, but not only in these cases. There is resistance from the public authorities to promote adequate investigations, which obscures the dimension of the phenomenon of enforced disappearance in Brazil (

In addition to these cases, I wanted to reflect on the current context in which we live in a global pandemic that requires that the relatives of the Covid-19 victim to keep away, leading to a solitary death and differentiated funeral practices. Given this, the Federal Attorney for Citizens’ Rights (PFDC / MPF) alerted the Brazilian State about the need for measures to prevent the enlargement of a considerable contingent of cases of missing persons in the context of the pandemic. This alert came in response to the Joint Ordinance 1/2020, of the National Council of Justice and the Ministry of Health, which allowed exceptional procedures for burial and cremation of bodies during the pandemic of the new coronavirus in Brazil. The Ordinance authorized health establishments, in the absence of family members or persons known to the deceased, to send the bodies directly to the cemeteries to be buried or cremated without the obligation to make a civil death record, which put at risk the possibilities of identification of remains. The Center for Anthropology and Forensic Archeology at Unifesp (Federal University of São Paulo) issued a technical note warning of the danger of “summary execution events and other serious human rights violations, especially those practiced against prisoners, homeless and indigenous people who would not be properly registered by the State”. The Ordinance was replaced by another that is more sensitive to these issues. (

The Program for Placement and Identifying Missing Persons in Amazonas – PLID / AM, carried out by the State Prosecutor’s Office, has been working since the beginning of the pandemic with the social services of the Hospitals and Emergencies in the Amazonian Capital. The objective has been to find relatives of hospitalized or dead patients without identification or contact with known family members. ( Other programs and NGOs are drawing the attention of the public authorities to the effects of death and funeral practices under a health emergency to protect the rights of the victims’ relatives, especially concerning the right to memory and the truth. Given the various occurrences of lack of identification, exchange of corpses, theft of bodies and other anomalies that occurred during this pandemic, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) urges States to preserve the memory of the dead and guarantee the right to the truth, justice, and reparation for the relatives of those who lost their lives as victims of Covid-19. (

The pandemic and consequent quarantine requires new reflections on the theme of missing persons and enforced disappearance. If the institutional structure does not identify the deceased and there is no traceability as to the causes of their deaths and the location where these people were buried because of the State’s omission, we will face numerous cases of enforced disappearance. The rupture caused by death without the right to traditional farewell rituals, corpses in sealed coffins and collective graves generate new responsibilities for the State to guarantee the proper identification of the bodies. Besides, due to the biological bomb that became prisons, the disappearance in these environments must be considered as possible and even probable, exacerbating the crisis of lack of investigation regarding enforced disappearance in Brazil. Thus, the corollary of the pandemic goes far beyond economic or health issues and touches on the right to memory and the protection of human rights at all levels.

*Simone Rodrigues Pinto is a political scientist and senior professor at the University of Brasilia. Tradução Luana Bittencourt.

As responsabilidades na crise do coronavírus nas prisões no Distrito Federal

Mais de 15% dos presos da Papuda estão contaminados pela COVID-19, uma taxa 36 vezes maior que no restante do país. O Juízo de Execução penal atuou fora da recomendação do CNJ

Complexo Penitenciário da Papuda, no Distrito Federal, em imagem de arquivo — Foto: TV Globo/Reprodução

O Distrito Federal possui quase 17 mil pessoas em privação de liberdade, das quais 3.390 não têm condenação, e um déficit de ao menos 5.400 vagas. Os presos estão distribuídos em várias unidades, sendo que na maior delas, o Complexo Prisional da Papuda, mais de 15% da população prisional foi contaminada pelo coronavírus. Até 26 de abril de 2020, eram 51 policiais e 161 presos infectados, tres dos quais estão internados no Hospital Regional da Asa Norte. Estes números representam cerca de 36 vezes a proporção de contaminações no país, e 31 vezes a proporção de contaminação do Distrito Federal, segundos cálculos do Projeto Infovírus.


Como foi possível chegar a este nível de contaminação e exposição de risco à vida? Até a constatação do primeiro detento com COVID-19 na Papuda, em 8 de abril, o juízo da Execução Penal já havia negado os pedidos de providência encaminhados pela Defensoria para liberação coletiva de presos de grupos de risco, grávidas e lactantes, e em antecipação de regime. Os pedidos individuais de liberação para presos em grupos risco também vinham sendo negados, sob alegação de que não havia nenhum caso de COVID-19 nas unidades de privação de liberdade e de que os detentos vinham sendo adequadamente tratados. Até a data, a previsão era a de liberar, caso a caso, cerca de 700 presos em antecipação de regime, o que representa a soltura de menos de 5% da população privada de liberdade, em um cenário de mais de 30% de superlotação. O juízo, portanto, não acatou a Recomendação n.62 do Conselho Nacional de Justiça, que determina a aplicação de medidas desencarceradoras para unidades com superpopulação para populações em grupo de risco, como mulheres grávidas, lactantes e mães de crianças de até 12 anos, além da antecipação de progressão de regime.


O juízo da Execução Penal aguardou a chegada do COVID-19, enquanto manteve a superpopulação encarcerada. Neste período, a juíza responsável pela Vara da Execução constituiu o Grupo de Monitoramento Emergencial da COVID-19, sem nenhuma das associações de familiares de pessoas privadas de liberdade em sua composição e a Subsecretaria do Sistema Penitenciário do Distrito Federal (SESIPE) determinou a suspensão de visitas, sem que até o momento tenha encaminhado uma solução efetiva para a comunicação entre presos, advogados e familiares, tendo em vista a magnitude do tamanho da população privada de liberdade.


No dia 2 de abril, o primeiro policial, e no dia 8 de abril, o primeiro detento, testaram positivo para COVID-19. Desde então, os casos se multiplicaram rapidamente, conforme especialistas em saúde pública já haviam alertado. E as estratégias de prevenção não falharam, porque não existiram. Os agentes estatais não tomaram as medidas devidas, e o juízo de execução penal atuou fora dos parâmetros que o Conselho Nacional de Justiça recomendou.


Depois de instaurado o alto contágio, a juíza da Vara de Execução Penal, em 19 de abril, declarou em autos de pedido de providência, que já havia liberado cerca de 700 pessoas em antecipação de regime, e cerca de 37 pessoas em grupos de risco. Nos mesmos autos, ela negou pedido da Defensoria para ampliar a antecipação de regime em mais 60 dias. Pelo baixíssimo número de liberdade de presos em grupos de risco concedidas após o primeiro caso de COVID-19, vê-se que o juízo segue entendendo que é possível garantir o direito à saúde dentro das unidades prisionais,ainda que em uma situação de contaminação exponencial.


A SESIPE (Subsecretaria do Sistema Penitenciário), por sua vez, declara vir tomando as seguintes medidas: reforço da higienização de celas e viaturas,quarentena para presos recém-chegados, aumento da testagem, isolamento de presos com sintomas, transferência de idosos, aumento de 400 vagas no complexo prisional e construção de hospital de campanha. A estratégia é a manutenção da superpopulação prisional, mas nenhuma dessas medidas pode reverter o quadro da contaminação. Quando um preso é isolado após apresentar sintomas, ele provavelmente já contaminou seus companheiros de celas, que podem abrigar em média, cada uma,entre 25 e 35 pessoas.


Uma vez que a exposição ao contágio já se consumou, as autoridades estatais devem garantir tratamento para as pessoas infectadas e intensificar a liberação de presos para minimizar a exponencialidade da contaminação. Quanto ao tratamento, há um hospital de campanha prometido, que terá apenas 40 leitos e sem data de conclusão da obra. Quanto à intensificação de medidas alternativas à prisão, não há aceno das autoridades neste sentido. No contexto de alta contaminação, é importante, todavia, que as liberações que vierem a ocorrer sejam monitoradas. Cada preso liberado deve ser testado e, se for positivo, encaminhado a tratamento adequado e devidamente contabilizado como população infectada sob custódia do Estado, a fim de evitar que as autoridades utilizem as liberações para desresponsabilizar-se do direito à vida destas pessoas, ou que ocultem os números reais de contaminação nas unidades prisionais. Uma prática que já vem ocorrendo na produção dos números oficiais no Brasil, conforme demonstrou @infovirus.


A garantia do direito à vida e do direito à saúde da população privada de liberdade são responsabilidade estatais. E a sua violação deve ser por elas respondida.



Camila Prando
Professora da Faculdade de Direito da UnB e Coordenadora do Centro de Estudos em Desigualdade e Discriminação e do Grupo de Pesquisa sobre Desaparecimento Forçado

Felipe Freitas
Doutorando em Direito pela Universidade de Brasília e membro do Grupo de Pesquisa em Criminologia da Universidade Estadual de Feira de Santana

Artigo publicado em Correio Braziliense, postado em 16 de abril de 2020. Disponível em:,845057/artigo-covid-19-e-o-complexo-prisional-do-df.shtml. Acesso em: 29 de abril de 2020.

Infovirus – Brazil

INFOVIRUS, an initiative of CEDD – Center for the Study of Inequality and Discrimination (UnB), Asa Branca Criminology Group (UFPE and UNICAP), Criminology Research Group (UEFS / UNEB) and Grupo Controle e Social Damage (UFSC) / UFSM) and researchers who intend to contribute with quality information about prisons and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic in Brazil.We are united by the need to verify the information, even the official ones, and we will disclose data, verification and counterposition through our social networks. Want to know more? Follow us on twitter and instagram ! And don’t forget: comment, like and share!

Começa hoje o INFOVÍRUS uma iniciativa do CEDD – Centro de Estudos de Desigualdade e Discriminação (UnB), Grupo Asa Branca de Criminologia (UFPE e UNICAP), Grupo de Pesquisa em Criminologia (UEFS/UNEB) e Grupo Poder Controle e Dano Social (UFSC/UFSM) e de pesquisadores/as autônomos/as que pretendem contribuir com informação de qualidade sobre as prisões e sobre o impacto da pandemia de coronavírus no Brasil.

Estamos unidos/as pela necessidade de verificar as informações, mesmo as oficiais e divulgaremos dados, verificação e contraposição através das nossas redes sociais. Quer saber mais? Te contamos a partir de sábado, 18 de abril.

Nos siga no twitter e instagram ! E não esqueça: comente, curta e compartilhe!

Des prisons en Afrique : expériences, modèles et circulations

Largement tributaires de discours médiatiques, les prisons en Afrique sont souvent réduites à des images d’espaces surpeuplés et délabrés, signes d’Etats « en crise ». En miroir, elles deviennent l’un des objets de la réforme des Etats, à l’intersection des champs judiciaire, sécuritaire et sanitaire. La question carcérale apparaît alors sur certains agendas politiques, formulée à l’occasion de prises de position locales, dans des projets nationaux ou encore dans des programmes de coopération.

Ce cours a pour objectif de vous aider à mettre en perspective ces discours et ces actions. Il propose ainsi de donner à comprendre les dynamiques carcérales du continent africain dans leur diversité géographique et dans leurs régimes d’historicité pluriels. Il aborde l’expérience carcérale en s’appuyant sur des enquêtes de terrain. Il reviendra aussi sur les enjeux des politiques et des réformes pénitentiaires, et des stratégies des acteurs impliqués. Alternant des études de cas, des entretiens et des réflexions plus théoriques, ce cours doit vous aider à renforcer vos capacités d’analyse et d’action (recherche-action, plaidoyer, …).

Cet enseignement articule réflexion théorique et approches empiriques de la prison et propose un regard nouveau sur le carcéral en Afrique.

Prevention and control of COVID-19 in prisons and other places of detention

People deprived of their liberty, such as people in prisons and other places of detention, are more vulnerable to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak. People in prison live in settings in close proximity and thus may act as a source of infection, amplification and spread of infectious diseases within and beyond prisons.

As the pandemic spreads, the response to COVID-19 in prisons and other places of detention becomes more challenging and requires a whole-of-society approach.  Efforts to control COVID-19 in the community are likely to fail if strong infection prevention and control measures, testing, treatment and care are not carried out in prisons and other places of detention as well.

Prison health is part of public health so that nobody is left behind. As part of public health response, WHO worked with partners to develop a set of new materials on preparedness, prevention and control of COVID-19 in prisons and other places of detention.

Research and Observatory on Enforced Disappearance


International Research Network and Observatory on Global Forced Disappearance (ROAD
is an international network of researchers whose objective is to gather and encourage studies and research on topics related to enforced disappearances from an interdisciplinary and comparative perspective. Its scope is intended to be global in order to guarantee a geopolitical plurality of analyzes as well as a diversity of theoretical, methodological and empirical contributions. Thus, it seeks to guarantee a space for reflection among researchers dedicated to analyzing the dynamics linked to contexts of extreme violence, which occurred in democratic or authoritarian regimes. Although the manifestations of socio-political violence that occurred under military dictatorships or authoritarian regimes were common, today we see that they are expressed in countries that claim to be democratic.

In this way, we seek to debate new theoretical categories, different disciplinary views, various epistemological and methodological tools, from which research is carried out in contexts crossed by structural, daily and extreme violence.

The occurrence of the disappearance has consequences that must be analyzed in an interdisciplinary and comparative way. The legacy of enforced disappearances requires analysis from a social, political and legal perspective, in addition to other epistemological and methodological approaches so that all impacts on social dynamics are considered. For this reason, the network brings together researchers from different disciplinary areas and activities and is at the intersection between law, sociology, anthropology, psychology, history and other fields of knowledge.

Enforced disappearances generate a succession of problematic situations for the groups or societies concerned: from the time of the report of the disappearance, until the time when unidentified human remains are discovered or until collective recognition that the disappeared will never come back. Therefore, there are important discussions about the legal category of disappearance in local or international law, but also analyzes about the psychosocial reflexes in the family group and society, the need for memorialization, ritual and memory treatment of the missing persons, the investigation of the circumstances surrounding the disappearance and the right to the truth, the discovery of mass graves with remains unidentified, the legal status of human remains and the law of the dead, enforced disappearance in state prisons, responsibility of the state and its agents, enforced disappearances in times of conflict and under democratic regimes, the action of militias and parastatal groups in the case of forced disappearances, the role played by state bureaucratic apparatus, the definition of victim, the reparation due to family members and other issues that permeate the phenomenon directly or tangentially.

In the same sense, the ROAD network aimed at inventorying and studying the methods of enforced disappearance, in contexts of war and as in contexts of peace, in democratic spaces as in authoritarian regimes, through the creation of a global Observatory on disappearances, which may establish partnerships with other initiatives.

The creation of an international network of researchers will facilitate the exchange of experiences, the analysis of different empirical cases and the construction of theoretical categories that take into account the complexity of the theme.

Le Réseau international de recherche et observatoire sur les disparitions forcées (ROAD) s’agit d’un réseau international de chercheurs et chercheuses dont l’objectif est de rassembler et d’encourager les études et recherches sur des sujets liés aux disparitions forcées dans une perspective interdisciplinaire et comparative. Il vise à avoir une portée mondiale afin de garantir une pluralité géopolitique d’analyses ainsi qu’une diversité de contributions théoriques, méthodologiques et empiriques. De cette façon, l’objectif est d’assurer un espace de réflexion entre chercheurs dédiés à l’analyse des dynamiques liées aux contextes de violence extrême, qui se sont produits dans des régimes démocratiques ou autoritaires. Etant que les manifestations de violence sociopolitique ont lieu plus couramment sous des dictatures militaires ou des régimes autoritaires, on remarque un manque d’études sur les disparitions forcées sous régimes democratiques.

De cette façon, nous cherchons à débattre de nouvelles catégories théoriques, de différentes perspectives disciplinaires, de divers outils épistémologiques et méthodologiques, à partir desquels la recherche est menée dans des contextes traversés par des violences structurelles, quotidiennes et extrêmes.

La survenue de la disparition a des conséquences qui doivent être analysées de manière interdisciplinaire et comparative. L’héritage des disparitions forcées nécessite une analyse dans une perspective sociale, politique et juridique, en plus d’autres approches épistémologiques et méthodologiques afin que tous les impacts sur la dynamique sociale soient pris en compte. Pour cette raison, le réseau rassemble des chercheurs de différents domaines et activités disciplinaires et se trouve à l’intersection du droit, de la sociologie, de l’anthropologie, de la psychologie, de l’histoire et d’autres domaines de la connaissance.

Les disparitions forcées génèrent une succession de situations problématiques pour les groupes ou sociétés concernés: depuis le moment du signalement de la disparition, jusqu’au moment où des restes humains non identifiés sont découverts ou jusqu’à la reconnaissance collective que les disparus ne reviendront jamais. Par conséquent, il y a des discussions importantes sur la catégorie légale de disparition en droit local ou international, mais aussi des analyses sur les réflexes psychosociaux dans le groupe familial et la société, la nécessité de la commémoration, le traitement rituel et mémoriel des personnes disparues, l’enquête sur la les circonstances entourant la disparition et le droit à la vérité, la découverte de charniers dont la dépouille n’a pas été identifiée, le statut juridique des restes humains et le droit des morts, la disparition forcée dans les prisons d’État, la responsabilité de l’État et de ses agents, les disparitions forcées dans en temps de conflit et sous des régimes démocratiques, l’action des milices et des groupes paraétatiques en cas de disparitions forcées, le rôle joué par l’appareil bureaucratique de l’État, la définition de la victime, la réparation due aux membres de la famille et d’autres questions qui imprègnent directement le phénomène ou tangentiellement.

Dans le même sens, la réseau ROAD visait à inventorier et étudier les méthodes de disparition forcée, dans des contextes de guerre et dans des contextes de paix, dans des espaces démocratiques comme dans des régimes autoritaires, à travers la création d’un Observatoire mondial des disparitions, qui pourrait établir partenariats avec d’autres initiatives.

La création d’un réseau international de chercheurs et chercheuses facilitera l’échange d’expériences, l’analyse de différents cas empiriques et la construction de catégories théoriques qui prennent en compte la complexité du thème.

Red Internacional de Investigación y Observatorio sobre Desaparición Forzada (ROAD) es una red internacional de investigadores e investigadoras cuyo objetivo es reunir y fomentar estudios e investigaciones sobre temas relacionados con las desapariciones forzadas desde una perspectiva interdisciplinaria y comparativa. Su alcance pretende ser global para garantizar una pluralidad geopolítica de análisis, así como una diversidad de contribuciones teóricas, metodológicas y empíricas. Por lo tanto, busca garantizar un espacio de reflexión entre los investigadores dedicados a analizar las dinámicas vinculadas a los contextos de violencia extrema, que ocurrieron en regímenes democráticos o autoritarios. Aunque las manifestaciones de violencia sociopolítica que ocurrieron bajo dictaduras militares o regímenes autoritarios fueron comunes, hoy vemos que se expresan en países que dicen ser democráticos.

De esta manera, buscamos debatir nuevas categorías teóricas, diferentes puntos de vista disciplinarios, diversas herramientas epistemológicas y metodológicas, desde las cuales la investigación se lleva a cabo en contextos cruzados por la violencia estructural, cotidiana y extrema.

La aparición de la desaparición tiene consecuencias que deben analizarse de manera interdisciplinaria y comparativa. El legado de las desapariciones forzadas requiere un análisis desde una perspectiva social, política y legal, además de otros enfoques epistemológicos y metodológicos para que se consideren todos los impactos en la dinámica social. Por esta razón, la red reúne a investigadores de diferentes áreas y actividades disciplinarias y se encuentra en la intersección entre derecho, sociología, antropología, psicología, historia y otros campos del conocimiento.

Las desapariciones forzadas generan una sucesión de situaciones problemáticas para los grupos o sociedades involucradas: desde el momento del informe de la desaparición, hasta el momento en que se descubren restos humanos no identificados o hasta el reconocimiento colectivo de que los desaparecidos nunca volverán. Por lo tanto, hay discusiones importantes sobre la categoría legal de desaparición en el derecho local o internacional, pero también analiza sobre los reflejos psicosociales en el grupo familiar y la sociedad, la necesidad de memorización, tratamiento ritual y de memoria de las personas desaparecidas, la investigación de circunstancias que rodean la desaparición y el derecho a la verdad, el descubrimiento de fosas comunes con restos no identificados, el estado legal de los restos humanos y la ley de los muertos, la desaparición forzada en las prisiones estatales, la responsabilidad del estado y sus agentes, las desapariciones forzadas en tiempos de conflicto y bajo regímenes democráticos, la acción de las milicias y los grupos paraestatales en el caso de desapariciones forzadas, el papel desempeñado por el aparato burocrático estatal, la definición de víctima, la reparación debida a los miembros de la familia y otros problemas que impregnan el fenómeno directamente o tangencialmente

En el mismo sentido, el ROAD tenía como objetivo inventariar y estudiar los métodos de desaparición forzada, en contextos de guerra y en contextos de paz, en espacios democráticos como en regímenes autoritarios, mediante la creación de un Observatorio mundial sobre desapariciones, que puede establecer asociaciones con otras iniciativas.

La creación de una red internacional de investigadores e investigadoras facilitará el intercambio de experiencias, el análisis de diferentes casos empíricos y la construcción de categorías teóricas que tengan en cuenta la complejidad del tema.