Do Not Try 16-Year-Olds as Adults

jose cruz

Target: Eduardo Cunha, President of the House of Representatives

Goal: Reject an amendment that would allow courts to try sixteen-year-old offenders as adults.

The age at which juveniles can be tried as adults was changed from 18 to 16 because of a measure recently approved by Brazil’s Special Commission of the House of Representatives. The proposed amendment (known as PEC 171/1993) is set to come before the House of Representatives for a vote and, if approved, it would violate a number of international treaties and laws, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Sign the petition and urge the House of Representatives’ president not to allow the passage of a law that would seriously impact the human rights of young Brazilians.

As Amnesty International points out, children accused of crimes are entitled to all the same legal protections and human rights as adults. However, children are granted additional rights and protections in recognition of the fact that their psychological and physical development is significantly different from that of adults. Trying children as adults fails to take these differences into account and violates standards set out in a number of international treaties, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Brazil is subject to.

Brazil has the most homicides of any nation on earth, and its prison system is infamous for being overcrowded and violent. In just seven years, from 2005 to 2012, the number of people in Brazil’s prison system increased by 74 percent. In trying to crack down on crimes, authorities have introduced a number of changes to Brazil’s criminal laws. However, lowering the age at which children can be tried as adults will not do anything to improve–and will in fact likely worsen–problems such as prison overcrowding.

It is crucial that the proposed amendment be rejected. Sign the petition and urge the House of Representatives not to pass PEC 171/1993.


Dear Congressman Cunha,

I am writing to urge you to reject proposed amendment PEC 171/1993 which would lower the age at which juvenile offenders could be tried as adults. The amendment would do little to improve–and would in fact likely worsen–crime-related problems in Brazil, and the proposal would violate a number of international human rights standards and treaties. I urge you to vote “no” on the proposed amendment.

As the nation with the the highest number of homicides in the world, it is understandable that Brazil is eager to address and prevent crime. However, lowering the age at which children can be tried as adults is not an acceptable measure. Children differ significantly from adults in their physical and psychological development, which juvenile protections take into consideration. Furthermore, if the measure is passed it will likely increase the number of offenders being imprisoned, which would put a further strain on Brazil’s prisons that are already overcrowded and prone to violence.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Brazil is subject, does not allow for anyone under the age of eighteen to be tried as an adult. I urge you to recall Brazil’s obligations to both its own citizens and the international community. Reject amendment PEC 171/1993.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: José Cruz

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