Press Release

IACHR Condemns Killings in São Paulo, Brazil

August 21, 2015

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María Isabel Rivero
IACHR Press and Communication Director
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Washington, D.C.—The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the killing of 18 people in Brazil, at 11 locations in the state of São Paulo. The Commission urges the State to continue the investigations underway, clear up what happened, and identify, prosecute, and punish those responsible, as well as adopt measures to ensure that such events do not happen again.

According to information the Commission has received, on August 13, 2015, 18 people died and 6 were injured in attacks perpetrated within a three-hour period by armed individuals at 11 locations in the state of São Paulo. According to some testimony and what can be seen on videos recorded by security cameras, the unidentified, armed individuals traveled in vehicles from one place to another, asking people whether they had a criminal record and shooting those who said they did. According to information provided by the authorities, the same vehicle was seen at several of the crime scenes. One line of investigation concerns whether members of the military police may have been responsible, as part of alleged reprisals over the killing of a military police officer days earlier.

These events are taking place in a context of citizen insecurity. According to official statistics, 56 people have died in massacres in São Paulo so far in 2015. Data turned over to the Instituto Sou da Paz by the State of São Paulo Secretariat of Public Security, through an access-to-information request, indicates that this represents an increase from the previous year, when 49 deaths in massacres were reported for the entire year. According to a news report by SPTV, which was based on official figures obtained through the Access to Information Law, one of every five homicides in São Paulo in 2014 was committed by the police. According to reports by the media and by civil society organizations, the victims of these types of deaths tend to be men of African descent between 15 and 30 years of age, living in poverty in neighborhoods on the outskirts of the city of São Paulo. Of the cases in which deaths occur in situations the police call “confrontations,” fewer than 8 percent ever go to trial in São Paulo. Organizations such as Amnesty International have expressed their concern over the deaths of people at the hands of the police in São Paulo.

The IACHR takes note of statements made by São Paulo Governor Geraldo Alckmin, who described the events as “extremely serious” and said the aim will be to clear up what happened “as quickly as possible.” The Commission also takes note of the public statements by São Paulo Secretary of Public Security Alexandre de Moraes, who said that this was “the worst mass killing this year” and announced that the authorities will act “quickly to capture everyone” who ends up being responsible for what took place.

The IACHR urges the State to continue the investigations in progress in a way that is timely, objective, and impartial, and to pursue all logical avenues of investigation, including the theory that the perpetrators could have been State law enforcement officers. The investigation should clarify the motives for these serious acts of violence; identify, prosecute, and punish the perpetrators and masterminds; and meet the expectations for justice of the victims and their family members. The State should also adopt any legal, institutional, and administrative measures that may be necessary to ensure that these types of acts are not repeated. The IACHR welcomes authorities’ statements to the effect that every necessary effort will be made to clear up what happened and do justice.

The Inter-American Commission reiterates that States have an unavoidable obligation, in keeping with their international human rights obligations, to adopt any measures necessary to protect the lives and physical integrity of all persons under their jurisdiction. High rates of violence and crime undermine the rule of law and contribute to an erosion of the democratic progress the region has made in recent decades; thus, the implementation of comprehensive public security policies is essential for the continuation of the democratic system.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 092/15