Stop Torture

The Harvard Anti-Torture Coalition

Waterboarding in History (Part I): Brazil’s Dictators–A lesson dedicated to Schumer and Feinstein

Posted by stoptorture on November 4th, 2007


Brasil: Nunca Mais is a study of state repression during the Brazilian military dictatorship from 1964-1985. Undertaken clandestinely by a team of lawyers, clergymen, and others, the study is based entirely on the Brazilian government’s own records of interrogations, disappearances, and other operations taken on in the name of national security. The documents were photocopied secretly until the archives of the Supreme Military Tribunal were reproduced. To date, the identity of many of the project’s participants is unknown. The book was first published in 1985, the final year of the Brazilian dictatorship. It is an abridged version of the complete work, which is over 5,000 pages long.

The Brazilian dictatorship opened Pandora’s Box on officially-sanctioned torture in 1964. Torture remains widespread and systematic in Brazil to this day.[2]


Preface by Cardinal Arns, Archbishop of São Paulo (May 3, 1985)

4. What has most impressed me throughout the years of my vigilance against torture is, however, the following: how the very torturers degrade themselves.

Chapter 2: The methods and instruments of torture

So states article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights signed by Brazil: No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

In twenty years of Military Government, this principle was ignored by Brazilian authorities. Our study revealed nearly one hundred different torture techniques–using physical aggression and psychological pressure–and with the most varied of instruments applied on Brazilian political prisoners. Court documents reveal in rich detail this criminal activity done under the auspices of the State. The depositions, here partially transcribed, demonstrate the principal methods and instruments of torture adopted by the repression in Brazil.

The parrot’s perch

“… The parrot’s perch consists of an iron bar that is introduced between the bound wrists and the bends of the knees; that ‘arrangment’ is placed between two tables and the body of the tortured remains hanging 20 or 30 centimeters above the floor. This method is almost never used in isolation; its usual ‘complements’ are electroshocks, the wooden bat or club, and the drowning [waterboarding]…”[3] (emphasis added).

The drowning [waterboarding] (emphasis added)

“…The drowning is one of the ‘complements’ of the parrot’s perch. A small rubber tube is introduced into the mouth of the tortured and water then follows…”[4]

“…, and had introduced into his nostrils, into his mouth, a hose of running water, which he was forced to breathe in each time he received a charge of electric shocks;…”[5]

“drowning by means of a wet towel in the mouth: when one has almost stopped breathing, one receives a jet of water in the nostrils;…”[6]

Chapter 3: The torture of children, women, and pregnant women


[1] Brasil: Nunca Mais [Brazil: Never Again]. 34th Ed., Petropolis: Editora Vozes, 2005. (Originally published by the Archdiocese of São Paulo in 1985. [Translation by Stop Torture.]

[2] See U.N. Economic and Social Council, Commission on Human Rights, 57th sess., agenda item 11(a), Report of the Special Rapporteur, Sir Nigel Rodley, Submitted Pursuant to Commission on Human Rights Resolution 2000/43, Addendum: Visit to Brazil, U.N. Doc. E/CN.4/2001/Add.2 (2001).

[3] Augusto César Salles Galvão, student, 21 years old, Belo Horizonte; handwritten letter, 1970: BNM no. 150, V. 2, p. 448-450.

[4] Supra note 2.

[5] José Milton Ferreira de Almeida, engineer, 31 years old, Rio de Janeiro; identification and interrogation deposition, 1976: BNM no. 43, V. 2, p. 421-430.

[6] Leonardo Valentini, steelworker, 22 years old, Rio de Janeiro; identification and interrogation deposition, 1973: BNM 75, V. 5o, p. 1277.

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