Article 24 of the 1976 Constitution of Portugal (as amended) governs the right to life. Paragraph 1 provides that: "Human life shall be inviolable." Article 25 addresses the right to personal integrity:
1. Every person's moral and physical integrity shall be inviolable.
2. No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, degrading or inhuman treatment or punishment.
Article 45 governs the right of peaceful assembly:
1. Citizens shall possess the right to meet peacefully and without arms, even in places that are open to the public, without the need for any authorisation.
2. The right of every citizen to demonstrate shall be recognised.
Article 164(u) provides that the Portuguese Parliament is responsible for setting law governing use of force by law enforcement agencies:
The Assembly of the Republic shall possess exclusive responsibility to legislate on ... the rules governing the police forces and security services...
|1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)||State Party|
|ICCPR Optional Protocol 1||State Party|
|1984 Convention against Torture (CAT)||State Party|
|Competence of CAT Committee to receive individual complaints||Yes|
|CAT Optional Protocol 1||State Party|
|1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court||State Party|
|1950 European Convention on Human Rights||State Party|
Police Use of Force
The main law enforcement agencies in Portugal are the paramilitary Guarda Nacional Republicana (GNR) and the Public Security Police (PSP).
Article 12 of the 2007 Law on the PSP provides that police officers may use, in the exercise of their duties, legally prescribed police measures according to the Constitution and the internal security law, and can not use force "beyond what is strictly necessary".
Decree-Law No. 457 of 1999 governs the use of firearms by the police. Article 2 addresses the principles of necessity and proportionality, providing that:
1 - The use of firearms is only allowed in case of absolute necessity, as an extreme measure, when other less dangerous means prove ineffective.
2 - In such a case, the officer shall endeavor to minimize injuries and and preserve human life.
Article 3 allows use of firearms in the following scenarios:
a) To repel an ongoing and unlawful attack against a police officer or third party
b) To capture or prevent the escape of a person suspected of having committed a crime punishable by a term of imprisonment of more than three years or who makes use of firearms or other weapons
(c) To arrest a person escaping or being subject to an arrest warrant or to prevent the escape of persons arrested or detained
(d) to release hostages or persons abducted or abducted
(e) To stop or prevent a serious attack on state or utility facilities public or social or against aircraft, ship, train, passengers or vehicle transporting dangerous goods ...
(i) where the maintenance of public order so requires or the superiors of the the same purpose, so determine.
This is more permissive than international law allows.
Use of Force in Custodial Settings
Portugal reported in 2014 that the Regulation on the Use of Coercive Means in Prison Facilities (RUFPF) has been revised, expressly providing for the principles of necessity and proportionality and the prohibition of excessive use of force.
Portugal has no dedicated independent civilian police oversight body. The General Inspectorate of the Internal Affairs, which is under the Ministry of Internal Affairs, is responsible for overseeing respect by the police and security forces with human rights. The Ombudsman of Portugal may also investigate complaints of unlawful police use of force.
In its 2013 Concluding Observations on Portugal, the Committee against Torture noted
the different internal and external inspection services of the police and prison administration competent to receive complaints and carry out disciplinary investigations on ill-treatment and the lack of clarity this may create when lodging a complaint. As regards criminal complaints, the Committee is also concerned by instances in which the police have refused to provide proof of the registered complaint to the person submitting it....
Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies
In its 2020 Concluding Observations on Portugal, the Human Rights Committee expressed its concern
about the persistence of reports of cases of violence committed by police officers against members of ethnic minorities, particularly Roma and African descendants. It is concerned that these crimes are not adequately investigated and prosecuted and that the number of convictions is low. Despite the explanation provided by the delegation, it notes with concern reports that police officers assigned to areas densely populated by ethnic minorities are insufficiently trained.
In its 2013 Concluding Observations on Portugal, the Committee against Torture expressed its deep concern
at instances where electrical discharge weapons (“Taser X26”) were disproportionally used by police and prison officials, for example, in 2010 by the Prison Security Intervention Group at Paços de Ferreira prison....
The Committee called on Portugal to ensure that
electrical discharge weapons are used exclusively in extreme and limited situations where there is a real and immediate threat to life or risk of serious injury, as a substitute for lethal weapons, and by trained law enforcement personnel only. The Committee is of the view that electrical discharge weapons should not be part of the equipment of custodial staff in prisons or any other place of deprivation of liberty.
The Committee was also concerned
at reports of discrimination and abuses against Roma and other minorities by the police, including allegations of excessive use of force against various members of the Roma community, including minors, during an arrest in Regalde, Vila Verde Municipality, in 2012.
There has been no case involving alleged unlawful police use of force in Portugal in recent years before the European Court of Human Rights.
In its 2013 Concluding Observations on Portugal, the Committee against Torture noted that
in May 2019, eight Public Security Police officers were found guilty of falsifying documents and aggravated ill-treatment in relation to actions against six young black men in February 2015 in Cova da Moura district in Amadora, Lisbon; three of the officers were also convicted of aggravated kidnapping. One defendant was sentenced to 18 months in prison, while the seven others received suspended sentences. The victims were granted compensation ranging from €7,500 to €10,000, although an appeal is pending.
The Committee noted with concern that the investigative judge in the case rejected the Public Prosecutor’s request that the officers be suspended pending trial, and that all charges of torture and racist motivation were dismissed by the court.