IACHR Condemns Police Violence in Favela Jacarezinho in Rio de Janeiro and Urges Brazilian State to Reform Its Public Security Policy

May 7, 2021

Washington, D.C. — The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemned the police operation that resulted in at least 28 deaths in Favela Jacarezinho, Rio de Janeiro, and expressed its extreme concern over the persistence of institutional violence in Brazil. In response, it urged the State to investigate these events promptly and diligently, punish those responsible for them, and provide reparation for victims and their families.

The IACHR received information on a police operation targeting organized crime that was carried out by the Civil Police of Rio de Janeiro State on May 6, 2021, in Jacarezinho Favela in the city of Rio de Janeiro. At least 28 people lost their lives in the operation, some in alleged circumstances that suggest extrajudicial executions. According to the information received, the security forces made excessive use of force against favela residents during the operation, invaded their homes without warrants, and interrupted commercial activities and transportation in the area. The fatal victims included one police officer. The IACHR underlined that a public source has identified this as the most lethal police operation in the history of Rio de Janeiro.

Likewise, the IACHR noted that the operation was carried out in disregard of the Supreme Federal Court ruling that resulted from Noncompliance with Fundamental Precept Claim (ADPF) No. 635, of June 5, 2020, which prohibited police operations in communities in Rio de Janeiro during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to this ruling, the operation could only have been carried out in truly exceptional circumstances and after notifying the Public Prosecutor's Office, which was allegedly only informed three hours after the operation had begun, according to the police force's own report.

In its Report on the Human Rights Situation in Brazil, the IACHR noted that, in a context of systemic racism, State security forces routinely carry out operations that target socioeconomically vulnerable communities with a high concentration of people of African descent and do so without observing international human rights standards.

In response, the IACHR reminded the State of its duty to reform public security forces to ensure that they comply with international standards on the use of force, based on the principles of legality, proportionality, and absolute necessity. It also noted once again that there is an urgent need to modify the militarization of police institutions, which runs counter to international human rights standards, and underlined that militarized organizations neglect the human rights approach, which is a fundamental factor in addressing problems relating to citizen security in democratic states.

Finally, the IACHR urged the State to initiate prompt, impartial, comprehensive investigations into these crimes, in accordance with inter-American standards, so as to provide reparation for victims of these human rights violations and their families.

The IACHR is a principal and autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), whose mandate derives from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote the observance and defense of human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The IACHR is composed 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. 117/21