Amnesty International Report 2014/15 - The State of the World's Human Rights - Portugal

Portuguese Republic
Head of state: Aníbal António Cavaco Silva
Head of government: Pedro Manuel Mamede Passos Coelho

Reports of excessive use of force by police and inadequate prison conditions continued. Roma continued to face discrimination. Austerity measures affected the enjoyment of economic and social rights and in some instances were found unconstitutional.


In May, the report of the Working Group on the UN Universal Periodic Review of Portugal highlighted the need for Portugal to protect the human rights of vulnerable groups from the negative impact of austerity measures adopted in 2013. Also in May, the Constitutional Court declared several austerity measures unconstitutional due to their disproportionate impact on economic and social rights. The measures adopted in 2013 were related to public servants' salaries, pensions and sickness and unemployment benefits. In the case of salaries, there was no retroactive reparation for the negative effects already created by such measures. At the end of the year the government was planning to reintroduce similar measures in the new budget.

Torture and other ill-treatment

In July 2014, two prison officers were handed an eight-month suspended sentence by the court of Paços de Ferreira for using excessive force against a detainee in the Paços de Ferreira prison in 2010. The two officers had entered the prisoner‘s cell to force him to either clean it or leave in order for the cell to be cleaned. Even though the detainee obeyed orders to stand up, turn his back to the cell door and face the window, the officers used a Taser to immobilize him. The court considered that the Taser was used disproportionately, particularly as the man had not resorted to any violence against the prison officers.

Prison conditions

In December 2013, the UN Committee against Torture highlighted reports of ill-treatment and excessive use of force, as well as prison overcrowding and deplorable prison conditions, particularly in the Prison of Santa Cruz do Bispo and the Lisbon Central Prison.

Discrimination – Roma

Forced evictions of Roma families continued to be reported.

In June, the homes of 67 members of the Vidigueira Roma Community, including 35 children and three pregnant women, were demolished by the municipality in their absence. According to reports, the eviction was implemented without prior notice and the families had no opportunity to collect their belongings before their homes were demolished. The families were made homeless as a result of the eviction. In September, a class consisting exclusively of Roma children, aged seven to 14, was created in a school in Tomar. No action was taken by relevant authorities to address the segregation of Roma children.

Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people

A proposed bill, amending current legislation to ensure the right of same-sex couples to co-adopt children, was rejected in March.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

New asylum legislation adopted in January extended the criteria for detaining persons seeking international protection. Overcrowding remained in the Reception Centre for Refugees of the Portuguese Refugee Council in Lisbon, which accommodated asylum-seekers awaiting a decision on their status.

Violence against women and girls

According to data provided by the NGO UMAR (União de Mulheres Alternativa e Resposta), as of 30 November, 40 women were killed by partners, ex-partners and close family members. There were also 46 attempted murders. The number had risen since 2013, when 37 homicides were registered for the whole year.