IACHR Files Case with IA Court on lack of Investigation Into Extrajudicial Executions of Adolescents in Brazil

August 28, 2023

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Washington, DC—On June 16, 2023, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) submitted Case 12.398 to the Inter-American Court (IA Court) regarding the extrajudicial execution of adolescents Max Cley Mendes, Marciley Roseval Melo Mendes, and Luís Fábio Coutinho da Silva, and for the impunity that continues to surround this.

In 1994, Max Cley Mendes, Marciley Roseval Melo Mendes, and Luís Fábio Coutinho da Silva were killed by the military police during an operation in the Tapanã neighborhood of Belém, the capital of the state of Pará, in connection with the murder of a policeman. The deaths were justified as casualties during a violent confrontation and were recorded as "acts of resistance." Before they were killed, the adolescents were threatened and assaulted by the police officers.

The official investigation that began in December of that year was transferred first to the military justice system and then to the ordinary justice system in November 1996. The Attorney General's Office brought charges against 21 military police officers over their role in the operation that resulted in the deaths of the three teenagers. However, in August 2018, all the accused were acquitted due to lack of evidence and the case was permanently closed, as the Public Prosecutor's Office did not file an appeal.

The IACHR found that the State violated the victims' right to life and personal integrity. Specifically, the IACHR deemed that the operation did not follow the appropriate rules on the use of force and that the agents did not apply the criteria of necessity and proportionality. The IACHR also noted that the events took place in a context of State tolerance of police abuse and that the victims were tortured before being executed.

Given that the victims were adolescents, the IACHR noted that the State had a particular duty to protect them, especially in the context of insecurity and violence in which they lived. In this sense, the State violated the rights of children and adolescents.

It also violated the rights to judicial guarantees and protection. First, the crime of "act of resistance" was not clearly defined and was used to transfer the responsibility of the agents to the deceased adolescents, which led to impunity. Similarly, the first two years of the investigation were conducted by the military justice system, which lacks the independence and impartiality necessary to investigate human rights violations, and the subsequent investigation within the ordinary justice system did not correct the shortcomings of the initial process and took almost 24 years to complete.

The IACHR found that the State violated the integrity of the victims' families, who suffered the violent loss of their loved ones and the impunity that resulted from the lengthy judicial process.

Based on these findings, the IACHR found that the State is responsible for the violation of the rights protected in articles 4.1 (right to life), 5.1, 5.2 (right to humane treatment), 8.1 (right to a fair trial), 19 (rights of the child), and 25.1 (right to judicial protection) of the American Convention, in relation to articles 1.1 and 2 of this instrument, as well as for the failure to comply with the obligations set forth in articles 1, 6, and 8 of the Inter-American Convention.1 (right to judicial protection) of the American Convention, in relation to Articles 1.1 and 2 of said instrument, as well as the failure to comply with the obligations set forth in Articles 1, 6 and 8 of the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture, to the detriment of the people indicated in the Merits Report.

As a result, the IACHR recommended that the State take the following reparation measures:

  1. Make full reparations to the victims' families.
  2. Conduct a thorough, impartial, effective investigation to identify those responsible for these crimes, taking into account the excessive use of lethal force by the police.
  3. Provide physical and mental healthcare measures for the victims'.
  4. Implement measures of nonrepetition to prevent similar cases from occurring in the future, including prohibiting the automatic classification of deaths caused by police using illegal categories and implementing educational programs to prevent dehumanization and the excessive use of force by police officers.

The IACHR is a principal and autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), whose mandate stems from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has the mandate to promote the observance and defense of human rights in the region and acts as an advisory body to the OAS on the matter. The IACHR is made up of seven independent members who are elected by the OAS General Assembly in their personal capacity, and do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 198/23

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