Press Release

IACHR Concerned about Killings Committed by Police Officers in Brazilian Urban Contexts

April 25, 2019

   Contact info

IACHR Press and Communication Office
Tel: +1 (202) 370-9000

   More on the IACHR
A+ A-

Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) is concerned about killings committed by police officers in Brazilian urban contexts, and also about an excessive use of force by officers of the country’s public security forces. The Commission calls on the State to take effective action to investigate and punish such violence impartially and with due diligence, and particularly to ensure the participation of independent supervision mechanisms.

In the context of its monitoring efforts, the IACHR heard allegations of murders linked to police activity, encouraged by police officers or otherwise involving police officers. Based on those allegations, poor suburban communities with high concentrations of Afro-descendant persons tend to bear the brunt of that violence.

According to data issued by the Public Security Institute of the state of Rio de Janeiro, for instance, operations involving officers of the State led to 305 deaths in that state in the first two months of 2019 alone. According to data issued by the same institution, such crimes increased by approximately 18% relative to the first two months of 2018. Given these alarming figures, the IACHR stresses the need to adopt a comprehensive approach to citizen security which includes designing, implementing and permanently assessing public policies that are both comprehensive and sustainable, strategies to reduce lethal action by police, and a focus on protecting the human rights of all persons.

The Commission was told about a massacre on February 1 in the favelas (slums) of Coroa, Fallet-Fogueteiro and dos Prazeres, in the city of Rio de Janeiro. According to the information obtained by the IACHR, following a police raid involving officers of the Special Operations and Riot units, 15 young residents of the area were murdered, which would make this the police raid with the highest death toll over the past 12 years in Rio de Janeiro.

The IACHR was also informed about the murder of at least nine people on January 20, 2019 in Marambaia, in the town of Itaboraí, in the Rio de Janeiro metropolitan area. That massacre allegedly happened following the murder of military police officer Rodrigo Marques Paiva.

The Commission notes that both the Public Prosecutor’s Office of the state of Rio de Janeiro and the Military Prosecutor’s Office decided to close the case against officers of Army Special Operations personnel who had allegedly taken part in a raid in November 2017 in which eight people were said to have been murdered in the Complexo do Salgueiro, in the municipality of São Gonçalo, in the state of Rio de Janeiro. The IACHR urges the State to comply with its obligation to identify the people responsible for those events and to make sure that such killings do not go unpunished.

The Commission observes with concern a pattern of excessive use of force by police officers, high rates of killings by police and collaboration of public security officers with organized crime gangs and militias. The IACHR stresses a concern about the growing militarization of citizen security policies it already noted at the end of its in loco visit to Brazil in November 2018.

Along similar lines, the IACHR highlights the importance of continuing to strengthen the independence and autonomy of justice system operators and supervision mechanisms involved in investigating the activities of civilian and military police officers. The Commission is also concerned about the fact that authorities linked to the leadership of those same security forces are being enlisted to investigate and prosecute such crimes, particularly following the adoption of Act 13,491/2017 (which amended the Military Penal Code so that intentional homicides of civilians committed by Armed Force personnel are tried by military courts).

The IACHR calls on the State to take effective protection measures to address raids by its officers that—directly or indirectly—threaten the right to life. In particular, the Commission calls on the State to design and implement social, community and situation plans and programs aimed at addressing the issues that favor a perpetuation of violent conduct within society.

Finally, the IACHR calls on the State to take effective action to investigate and punish such violence impartially and with due diligence. Specifically, the State must ensure the participation of independent supervision mechanisms to represent the victims, assess formal complaints and investigate such violence, and it should even consider the systematic implementation of federal investigations in such cases.

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 and to defend 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. 103/19