a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings
There were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.
There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The constitution and law prohibit such practices, but there were reports of hazing involving sexual abuse and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment by military personnel against other military personnel. Military authorities detained six individuals alleged to have been involved, expelled them from the armed forces following disciplinary proceedings, and referred the case to the Attorney General’s Office for criminal investigation.
As of August, the National Commission for Human Rights and Citizenship reported six complaints of police abuse during the year and 10 for all of 2020. Authorities investigated 20 reports of violence by National Police agents through September and 19 such reports for all of 2020, many of which resulted in dismissal, suspension, or other disciplinary action against officers involved. The cases included hitting detainees, excessive force with a baton, and discharging a weapon. The Attorney General’s Office reported 141 cases of alleged crimes by law enforcement agents between August 2020 and July, 83 percent by National Police, 8 percent by Judicial Police, and 7 percent by prison guards. During the same period, authorities resolved 106 such cases.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Although the government took steps to improve prison conditions in some areas during the year, they remained deficient due to overcrowding and inadequate health and sanitary conditions.
Physical Conditions: Of the five prisons in the country, three, in Praia, Sao Vicente, and Fogo, had populations that substantially exceeded capacity. Prisons in Praia, Sao Vicente, and Sal separated inmates by trial status, sex, and age. In Fogo officials established isolation cells that separated youths from adults. In Santo Antao inmates were separated according to trial status and crime but not age. Conditions in general were inadequate for inmates with mental disabilities or substance addictions. Women were not incarcerated in regional prisons because of the lack of separate space for them. In the Praia and Sao Vicente prisons, women generally had more space per person and better sanitary conditions than male prisoners. The Ministry of Justice reported eight deaths in prisons during the year, including three due to prolonged illness, one due to COVID-19, one homicide, and one suicide.
At least 15 inmates at the Sao Vicente prison took part in a hunger strike in April to protest allegedly abusive disciplinary measures, measures to limit spread of the COVID-19 virus such as suspension of visits and deliveries of food and hygiene products from family members, and the alleged denial of medical treatment to an inmate who subsequently died from COVID-19. The National Commission for Human Rights and Citizenship visited the prison, met with striking inmates, and submitted 22 recommendations to improve conditions, but stated that nearly all remained to be implemented. Prison authorities reported that all inmates subsequently received COVID-19 vaccinations and visits resumed from visitors with proof of vaccination. Corrections authorities continued to use solitary confinement as a disciplinary measure for prisoners.
Administration: There were no prison ombudsmen to respond to complaints; however, the semi-independent National Commission for Human Rights received prisoners’ complaints through regular prison visits, written communication, social media postings, and telephone calls from prisoners or their relatives. The commission received 11 complaints from detainees through August and 17 for all of 2020 of inadequate provisions for health and hygiene, inadequate food, mistreatment by prison guards, poor security, inadequate access to lawyers, limitations on visits, extended periods of preventive detention, and substandard prison facilities. In addition, semi-independent “Provider of Justice” teams made unannounced visits to prisons to assess conditions. Corrections officials stated the complaints had been investigated. Prison visits were restricted to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Meetings with legal counsel took place under controlled conditions to mitigate spread of the disease. All prisons suspended activities, including religious assistance, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Prisons resumed such assistance in December.
Independent Monitoring: The government permitted formal visits by international human rights monitors to the prisons and individual prisoners. Local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) made visits to prisons to record conditions.
Improvements: During the year, prison authorities recruited more doctors. The Ministry of Justice reported completion of remodeling improvements at Fogo and other prisons that was expected to make it possible to separate prisoners and accommodate female prisoners where this was not previously the case. Under the government’s National Plan for Social Rehabilitation, the ministry continued inmate vocational training programs.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention and provide for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court. The government generally observed these requirements.
Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees
The National Police may not make arrests without a warrant from the Attorney General’s Office unless police apprehend the suspect in the act of committing a crime. Neither the National Police nor Judiciary Police have the authority to conduct investigations unless mandated by the Attorney General’s Office. The law stipulates a suspect must be brought before a judge within 48 hours of arrest. The law provides a detainee the right to prompt judicial determination of the legality of the detention, and authorities respected this right. Attorneys inform detainees of the charges against them. There is a functioning bail system. Authorities allow detainees prompt access to a lawyer of the detainee’s choice. If a detainee is unable to afford a lawyer, the Cabo Verdean Bar Association appoints one.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality. Cases nevertheless moved through the judicial system slowly because it lacked sufficient staffing and was inefficient.
The constitution and law provide for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Criminal defendants enjoy the right to a presumption of innocence. They have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of charges and receive free interpretation as necessary, from the moment charged through all appeals. The law provides for the right to a fair and public nonjury trial without undue delay, but cases often continue for years. Defendants have the right to be present at their trial and to consult with an attorney in a timely manner. Free counsel is provided for the indigent in all types of cases. Defendants have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. Defendants have the right to confront or question witnesses against them and to present witnesses and evidence in their defense, the right not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt, and the right to appeal regional court decisions to the Supreme Court of Justice.
Political Prisoners and Detainees
There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.
Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies
Individuals and organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights abuses. Courts handle civil matters including lawsuits seeking damages for, or injunctions ordering the cessation of, human rights abuses. Individuals and organizations may appeal adverse domestic decisions to regional human rights bodies. Both administrative and judicial remedies are available, although administrative remedies were rare.
f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The constitution and law prohibit such actions, and there were no reports the government failed to respect these prohibitions.