Human Rights Reference Center ofPublic Defender's office of Rio Grande do Sul (CRDH-DPE/RS)
Public Defender's office of Rio Grande do Sul

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
Though violence is a social fact, therefore intrinsic to any society, it is known that the formation, structuring and culture of a Country contribute to the way of solving conflicts and social problems. Brazil is not different, a Country which history is slaver-based, patrimonialist, racist and of great social inequality, certainly will produce a series of social practices considered violent, proper of modern society, but specific of the Brazilian social context. In this sense, among these practices can be found the gender violence and the state violence. When the Maria da Penha Case was analyzed before an Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, it was verified a clear discrimination against beaten women in Brazil, by the ineffectiveness of the Brazilian judicial system, so much so that the Commission's recommendations led to the drafting of Law No. 11.340/2006, called the Maria da Penha Law, which provides for the guarantee of access to the services of the Public Defender's Office, through specific and humane treatment, to every woman who lives in situations of domestic violence. On the other hand, it is not unknown, especially when attested by the UN Special Rapporteur on torture, in the year 2016, when visiting Brazil, that the impunity of public officials in case of torture in Brazil remains the rule and not the exception. Juan Méndez went so far as to argue that “Torture and mistreatment by police and prison staff is still alarming and a regular occurrence, mainly against persons belonging to racial, sexual, gender and other minority groups”. These described violence is shown to be transversal, affecting a wide range of minority groups and individuals, men, women, children, adolescents, elderly, indigenous people, black people, LGBT populations, refugees, migrants, among others, with clear affectation in social, legal and family contexts and relations. The complexity of gender and state violence in this case reaches an entire order of violation not only of life, but of the physical, psychic, sexual, patrimonial and moral integrity of the human person. Since the Public Defender's Office is an institution created by the Federal Constitution of 1988, as an essential function of justice, which guarantees access to justice for all those who do not have financial and organizational conditions to do so; being a promoter of Human Rights and having as objectives, defined by Complementary Law no. 80/1994, the primacy of the dignity of the human person and the reduction of social inequalities, the affirmation of the Democratic State of Law, the prevalence and effectiveness of Human Rights and the guarantee of constitutional principles of the contradictory and ample defense; having as an institutional function the preservation and reparation of the rights of people who are victims of torture, sexual abuse, discrimination or any other form of oppression or violence, providing for the interdisciplinary monitoring and care of victims; It was verified as an innovative solution the implementation of am Human Rights Reference Center (CRDH-DPE/RS, portuguese initials), the only one in the country to be managed by a Public Defender's Office.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
In partnership with the Human Rights Secretariat of the Presidency of the Republic (SDH/PR, portuguese initials), the Human Rights Reference Center (CRDH-DPE/RS, portuguese initials) was implemented in 2014, strengthening the institutional mission of the Public Defender's Office to promote information and culture of human rights. At CRDH-DPE/RS, we work on the construction of strategies for confronting and overcoming violence and the affirmation of Human Rights. Through this service we ensure the widening of access to justice for citizens who are victims of violence, especially violence against women and state violence, in Porto Alegre (Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil) and the Metropolitan Region.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
Since January, 17, 2014, the CRDH-DPE/RS attends victims of prejudice, discrimination, intolerance, ill-treatment, neglect and abandonment, especially women in situations of domestic violence and victims of state violence (mainly perpetrated by the justice and public security system), either by spontaneous demand or by referral of some other service. In this sense, the CRDH-DPE/RS is a unit of the Public Defender's Office that acts in the construction of strategies to face and overcome violence, affirmation of Human Rights and access to justice. It was designed and implemented in order to reduce the social vulnerability of people who are victims of violence. Thus, the work accomplished is aligned with objectives 05 and 16 of the UN Global Sustainable Development Goals. Due to the complexity of the cases dealt with in the CRDH-DPE/RS, our services are integral and multidisciplinary, since our team is formed by Public Defenders, psychologist, social worker, public servants with training in Law and interns. In the first contact with our service the registration is done and the situation and the need for urgent care are analyzed. Afterwards, the multidisciplinary reception is scheduled to identify the specific demand, assess the risk of the case and, if necessary, agree on a security plan. Also, there is the possibility of scheduling specialized care in the areas of Psychology, Social Service and/or Law, in order to offer a space for listening, support and reflection to the victim of violence, as well as providing legal guidance and monitoring of judicial and extrajudicial procedures. Also in this stage, our team carries dialogues with the service network to provide means of access to public policies and enforcing rights. CRDH-DPE/RS staff draws up security plans and directs people to protection programs, both for human rights defenders or for victims and witnesses, in which the CRDH-DPE/RS' Overall Coordinator has a sit on the boards. The successful execution of the work can be ascertained by the simple fact that, to date, despite the high degree of risk of the cases, there was no death among those attended by the CRDH-DPE/RS. One of the main focuses of our service is Human Rights Education, which takes shape in different formats: Free workshops (movie shows, academic works shows, debates and lectures); Itinerant actions (assistance efforts, guidance about rights and dissemination of CRDH-DPE/RS’ services); Preparation and distribution of booklets, folders and flyers about human rights; And the CRDH-DPE/RS web page on the social network "Facebook" (, in which human rights news are published. Another innovation of the CRDH-DPE/RS, started in February 2017, is the "Turning the Page" Project, aimed at adolescents submitted to socio-educational measures of semi- freedom and imprisonment with possibility of external activities, in attendance at FASE/RS. The objective is to promote information, knowledge, debate and reflection on current issues of human rights and citizenship, encouraging the development of the condition of subject of rights by the participating adolescents. In this way, educating in human rights has as guideline stimulating and encouraging the other to reflect on their condition in the world and to appropriate their status as a citizen of rights in order to actively transform their life through the most varied political and subjective instruments. Therefore, all actions developed by the CRDH-DPE/RS aim to improve the life of the citizen, strengthening the effective exercise of citizenship, necessary to build a more just, democratic, inclusive and equal society.

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
There is no service in the Brazilian justice system equal to ours. We are the only Public Defender's Office in the country managing a Human Rights Reference Center, so much so that in 2016 we received the Human Rights Award of the Presidency of the Republic, in the category of Access to Justice, Combating Violence and Public Safety. We innovate by expanding our service, which must be juridical and integral, not only judiciary. That is, from mere follow-up of the process itself, to a integral care to address gender and state violence, through multidisciplinary service, judicial and extra-judicial actions, as well as education and contribution to the formulation of public policies, given the engagement and representation exercised in the Municipal and State Councils of rights and the articulation with the network and civil society as a whole.

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
The Public Defender's Office of Rio Grande do Sul, as an autonomous institution that participates in the justice system (Article 134 §2 of the Federal Constitution [CRFB / 88]), is permanent and essential to the jurisdictional function of the State, fundamentally in charge, as an expression and instrument of the democratic regime, of the promotion of human rights and full and free legal guidance at all levels, both individually and collectively. In the performance of its functions, it is incumbent upon it, among others things, to promote the diffusion and awareness of human rights, citizenship and legal order, and to defend women victims of domestic and family violence. Thus, the Public Defender's Office has, beyond an institutional duty, a constitutional mandate to promote awareness about the legal order and, as it were, to raise awareness of basic rights of citizenship and human rights. With this in mind, in partnership with the Human Rights Secretariat of the Presidency of the Republic, it implemented the Human Rights Reference Center (CRDH-DPE/RS), strengthening its institutional mission to promote information and culture of human rights, guaranteeing the widening of the conditions of access to justice for citizens who are victims of violence, especially violence against women and state violence. The target audience for the actions developed by the CRDH-DPE/RS covers victims of prejudice, discrimination, intolerance, ill-treatment, neglect and abandonment, especially women in situations of domestic violence and victims of state violence (mainly perpetrated by the justice and public security system). The main beneficiaries are minority groups, people in social vulnerability, women, children, adolescents, the elderly, indigenous people, black people, the LGBT population, refugees, migrants, among others. Indirectly, it aims to reach the families of the victims, community leaders, government agencies and agents in charge of the implementation of human rights and citizenship, civil society organizations that act on human rights and citizens in general. Regarding numerical data, since its opening until February 28, 2017, the CRDH-DPE/RS has already performed 7683 attendings for about 2040 people.
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
In order to implement an innovative service and in accordance with its institutional responsibilities, the Public Defender's Office in 2013, when it became aware of an action plan developed by the Federal Government for the implementation of Human Rights Centers, proposed the present partnership. Thus, the agreement between the Public Defender's Office of the State of Rio Grande do Sul and the Human Rights Secretariat of the Presidency of the Republic was signed on December 26, 2013, for a period of 12 months, with the possibility of being renewed for the same amount of time. In this agreement was stipulated the payment of a sum in the amount of R $ 200,000.00 by the Federal Government and R $ 24,000.00 by the Public Defender, as a counterpart, for the implementation of this Center. This money was destined to the purchase of patrimonies and materials for improvement in the architecture of the building, to better serve the people. Furthermore, in relation to the budget, it should be noted that it was paid in a single installment and if not used in its entirety, it should be returned to the Federal Government. For the execution of the actions, the CRDH-DPE/RS has a staff of public servants of the Public Defender's Office, composed of Overall Coordinator, Executive Coordinator, Process Analyst, Administrative Technicians, Public Defender, Psychologist, Social Worker and interns in three areas (Law, Psychology and Social Service), all paid by the Public Defender's Office. The activities planned in the work plan, executed in the first year, included: the structuring and installation of the physical space; Team composition; Strategic planning and action definition, mapping of the assistance network, capacity building of the team, conducting lectures, articulating with the actions and projects in execution to implement the national human rights plan and the national human rights education plan through participation in the state and municipal committees of the human rights system, in addition to integral and confidential services (carried out by Psychologist, Social Worker and/or Public Defender), human rights education, itinerant actions and publications of relevant human rights material. Regarding the monitoring of the service, the CRDH-DPE/RS is obliged to register the attendances and to prepare reports of accountability periodically for evaluation and inspection by the Human Rights Secretariat of the Presidency of the Republic. In addition, on-site visits are carried out by the Secretariat. Moreover, the effectiveness of the actions carried out is evaluated based on the beneficiaries' reviews, as well as the information provided by the articulation with the public policies network, insofar as a significant number of people has been attended and monitored over the course of several months. Such reviews bring to the team evidence regarding subjective empowerment, the rescue and exercise of citizenship, the resumption of the capacity to participate in decision making in the personal and social sphere, and, consequently, the expansion of one's own autonomy. In fact, after the first year of activities, there have been three further extensions of the agreement and, it is intended that the CRDH-DPE/RS be maintained as a permanent public policy of access to justice and education in Human Rights.

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
The Public Defender's Office of Rio Grande do Sul, through its administration, public servants involved with the work in the CRDH-DPE/RS and the Center for Studies, Training and Improvement of Public Defender's Office. The Human Rights Secretariat of the Presidency of the Republic, through the Overall Coordination of Reference Centers. The initiative was also supported by the NGO Themis, which aims to address discrimination against women in the justice system.

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
The CRDH-DPE/RS has consolidated itself as a reference in its work with Human Rights. This is evidenced by the increase in demand for the service and the relationship of trust we have with civil society. Participation in the services network and in municipal and state councils and committees reveals the influence of CRDH-DPE/RS in the preparation and monitoring of public policies. The Police Violence Diagnosis, carried out in partnership with an university, shows that we are reference in confronting this subject. Recently, because we deal with the issue of state and police violence in the three possible areas of public agents' accountability (civil, administrative and criminal), we obtained sentences of provenance in cases in which reparation was sought for the violence and the serious violation of human rights suffered by the victims, in one of these cases the victims were two Senegalese immigrant students. In the context of gender equality, we are also obtaining, through judicial process, the recognition of rights of name and gender in the civil registry of the transsexual/transgender population. We also work to include victims and witnesses in protection programs, including the Human Rights Defenders Protection Program. Combating violence against women, we have helped, in an interdisciplinary way, several women to break the cycle of violence and empower themselves to follow their lives free from all forms of oppression. So much so that none of the people cared at CRDH-DPE/RS died.

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
The Public Defender's Office is an institution that was created in 1988, with the edition of a Federal Constitution that brought to the country a redemocratization project, but only in 2004, and in the case of the State of Rio Grande do Sul in 2006, reaches Financial-administrative-budgetary autonomy. However, its budget comes from the amount of the State, therefore, the amounts that are spent, in relation to other governmental units and institutions such as the Public Prosecutor's Office, are really small, which is why in 2014 the Federal Constitution was emended, requiring expansion of the Public Defender's Offices in the country, including the presence of Public Defenders in all the existing judicial districts. It is known that the Public Defender’s Office has the mission of implementing the human right of access to justice, with that in mind more than one agreement was signed before the OAS, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court. The budget of the Public Defender's Office of Rio Grande do Sul represents only 7% of the budget of the justice system, compared with the Public Prosecutor's Office with 22% and the Judiciary with 70%. In this sense, the agreement signed with the Human Rights Secretariat is aimed at overcoming this obstacle, due to the financial assistance, although small because of the size of the demand.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
We directly affect the lives of people who seek our service with some demand through our multidisciplinary services. On the other hand, we affect society as a whole through networking, overseeing and proposing the elaboration of public policies, as well as through education in human rights. The rupture process of sustained violations is part of a subjective process of the individual, so the impact on the person's life can only be measured from systematic follow-ups that demonstrate empowerment and self-recognition of themselves as subjects of rights. Through the Police Violence Diagnosis, presented at a public hearing at the Legislative Assembly of Rio Grande do Sul, we affected the functioning of the public services that have attribution of supervision of the police action, especially on the issue of torture by police officers, since the information provided served to draw attention of Institutions that must act in the confrontation of this violence, so that they assume their portion of responsibility. As a result, several referrals came, although all were in some way directed at the need for greater and effective internal and external control of police activity; Issues such as access to information and data from Public Security; Strengthening of the State Public Security Council; Campaigns to eradicate torture; And development of policies in partnership with vulnerable groups, considering the existence of a significant underreporting. In relation to the judicial action that directly impacted the lives of people who sought our assistance, we obtained a sentence of recognition of moral damages against the State, referring to the denunciation of two Senegalese immigrant students harassed during police inspection motivated by abuse of authority and racial prejudice. In addition, we have obtained, through a judicial action, the right to compensation for moral damages to a citizen improperly imprisoned for more than one year, due to the failure to register a release permit in the information system of the Superintendency of Prisons (Susepe, portuguese initials). Both cases are paradigmatic in the justice system of the State of Rio Grande do Sul. In relation to women victims of domestic violence, an emblematic case was an elderly, black woman, economically dependent on her abusive husband and experiencing various types of domestic violence for many years. After several unsuccessful attempts to break the cycle of violence, she sought help from the CRDH-DPE/RS. In the first contacts with her, her emotional and social vulnerability was noticeable. We carried out legal, psychological and social service accompaniments for several months, so that we could help her to become empowered and re-establish her protagonism and autonomy. After several hearings we noticed that she regained her self esteem, broke the cycle of violence and achieved financial autonomy. Thus, it became clear that the actions of the CRDH-DPE/RS had a great impact on the life of this woman.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
The procedure established to deal with police violence takes place in all possible areas of responsibility (civil, administrative and criminal). The Police Violence Diagnosis, made in partnership with the University and presented to the Institutions and civil society in a public hearing at the Legislative Assembly of the State of Rio Grande do Sul, had the power to mobilize society and to provide transparency and knowledge of data produced within the State, as well as to draw the attention of the Institutions that must act in the confrontation of this violence, so that they assume their portions of responsibility. Thus, we put in discussion a topic of relevant importance, highlighting a violence that is often not seen and in others occasions is endorsed and validated by society itself.

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
Our institutional mission is to provide the poorest and most vulnerable with access to justice, strengthening of citizenship and education in human rights. Thereby, our focus has always been on providing services to the poor and vulnerable in various spheres of vulnerability, in preventing and combating violations identified through individual demands or social groups, restoring the rights attacked by individuals or the Government and promoting education in human rights. In the CRDH-DPE/RS there is a strong acting for the homeless population, a growing problem in our country. In this service, this population finds a humanized reception, which allows the referral to various public policies available (access to welfare benefits, housing, health, etc.). It also aims to ensure gender equity in all spheres. Therefore, through the CRDH-DPE/RS, it plays a relevant role in promoting, enforcing and defending women's fundamental rights, especially when in situations of domestic violence. This is one of the main focuses of the CRDH-DPE/RS, aiming at women's empowerment, which is not restricted to defense and protection against violent acts, but also involves redressing the autonomy of these women through humanized and multidisciplinary care.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Public Defender's office of Rio Grande do Sul
Institution Type:   Other  
Contact Person:   Mariana Py Muniz Cappellari
Title:   Public defender  
Telephone/ Fax:   +555132215503
Institution's / Project's Website:  
Address:   352 Caldas Júnior Street
Postal Code:   90010260
City:   Porto Alegre
State/Province:   Rio Grande do Sul

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