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Monday 23rd of October 2017

Press Room

Brazilian Senate debates reducing age of adult criminal responsibility

Tuesday 3rd of October 2017
Juvenile Justice in the world

The Committee of Constitution, Justice and Citizenship (CCJ) of the Brazilian Senate has postponed its vote on Draft Amendment to the Constitution 33/2012, which would lower the age of adult criminal responsibility in the country from 18 to 16 years.


Senator Gleisi Hoffmann’s request to postpone the vote divided opinion amongst Senators, but was eventually approved. Originally scheduled for the 27th September 2017, discussion of the Amendment in the Senate has now been postponed for 30 days.

The proposed Amendment would permit courts to sentence children aged 16 and 17 as adults, in cases involving crimes listed as ‘heinous’ under Law 8.072/1990: murder, grievous bodily harm and bodily harm leading to death, robbery, extortion, rape, indecent assault and prostitution, and sexual exploitation of children, adolescents and vulnerable persons.

Under the proposed Amendment, sentencing a child under adult law would require specific approval by the Public Prosecutor’s Office and a court specialising in cases involving children and adolescents. Proof that the child is capable of understanding the criminal nature of their offence would also be required.

In an open letter to Senators Edison Lobão, Antonio Anastasia and Ricardo Ferraço (President, Vice-President and Rapporteur on PEC 33/2012 of the CCJ respectively), Maria Laura Canineu (Human Rights Watch Brazil Director) called for the rejection of the proposed Amendment, stating it “will only increase recidivism and undermine efforts to reduce crime throughout the country”, as well as violating “international norms that have been enshrined in human rights treaties ratified by Brazil”, including those laid out in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The OIJJ strongly opposes the lowering of the adult age of criminal responsibility below 18 years old in any country, as this fundamentally impedes prioritising the best interests of children and adolescents in conflict with the law. Therefore we urge the Brazilian government to reject the proposed Amendment.


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