Brutal. That is the only word that came to my mind when I watched a video of police officers torturing a person detained at a station in the tiny province of Tucumán, Argentina — the most densely populated and smallest by land area.
The video, which came out on Monday and immediately became viral, shows an officer slamming the handcuffed detainee’s face into the floor, while demanding that he make animal sounds.
“How does the horse neigh? What does the rooster say? What does the dog say? Bark!” says the officer to the arrested man, as he beats him. The victim, who was arrested after allegedly insulting the police officers, babbles.
The two police officers were detained for this act of cruelty, and now will be brought before a judge.+
The footage comes as Tucumán politicians are focused on a crisis in the province’s penitentiary system. Police stations are holding detainees, given overcrowding of prisons. Roberto Guyot, head of the provincial prison system, says the main prison of Tucumán, Villa Urquiza, currently houses 900 inmates, while the intended capacity is less than half of that number.
Torture in Argentinean prisons and police stations is an ongoing problem. Last June, leaked pictures taken in a prison in San Luis province, from April that year, showed completely naked inmates. kneeling with their heads on the floor.
Back 2011, another shocking video depicting torture in a prison in the eastern province of Mendoza put the issue on the front page of national newspapers
The Center for Legal and Social Studies (CELS), a human-rights NGO, has criticized this practice and noted that they “are part of the culture at prisons, precincts and juvenile detention centers.” CELS “has repeatedly denounced the structural, daily basis of human-rights violations against detained people in Argentina,” but little or no action has been undertaken to address this problem.
While police abuse has been known about in Argentinean prisons and detention centers, the proliferation of smartphones has made it easier to document it. Numerous cases in the last year can confirm this.
The lack of accountability and widespread corruption among the police forces across the countries allow this phenomenon to continue.