A recent Telesur report claims that the UN has accused Brazilian police of killing street children to “clean streets” ahead of the 2016 Olympics. The report quotes Renate Winter, vice president of the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child, as saying this wave of violence is not new but is most palpable in Rio de Janeiro in order to “present a problem-free city to the world.”
While Our Times was not able to find the report to which Telesur refers, we were able to local an Amnesty International report entitled “You killed my son: Killings by military police in Rio de Janeiro”. This report specifically references military police who “shoot first, ask questions later”, as well as alarming statistics that include:
- 16% of the total homicides registered in the city in the last five years took place at the hands of on-duty police officers – 1,519 in total
- Evidence that strongly suggests the occurrence of extrajudicial executions in at least 9 out of 10 killings committed by the military police in 2014
- The majority of victims of police killings registered from 2010 to 2013 are young black men of between 15 and 29 years of age
- Brazil has one of the highest number of homicides in the world: 56,000 people were killed in 2012.
- In 2012 more than 50% of homicide victims were aged between 15 and 29, and 77% of them were black.
- 8,471 cases of killings by police officers on duty were registered in the State of Rio de Janeiro, including 5,132 in the city of Rio de Janeiro between 2005 and 2014.
- The number of killing by on-duty police officers registered as “resistance followed by death” in the city of Rio de Janeiro represents nearly 16% of the total number of homicides in the city for the last 5 years.
- When reviewing the status of all 220 investigations of police killings opened in 2011 in the city of Rio de Janeiro, Amnesty International found that after four years, only one case led to a police officer being charged. As of April 2015, 183 investigations were still open.
In yet another Amnesty International report, this one its Annual Report of Brazil in 2015/2016, the beginning paragraph states:
“Serious human rights violations continued to be reported, including killings by police and the torture and other ill-treatment of detainees. Young black men from favelas (shanty towns) and marginalized communities were at particular risk. The security forces often used excessive or unnecessary force to suppress protests. Conflict over land and natural resources resulted in the killings of dozens of people. Rural communities and their leaders continued to face threats and attacks by landowners, especially in the north and northeast of the country. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people continued to face discrimination and violence. Civil society opposition to new legislation and constitutional amendments that threatened to set back sexual and reproductive rights, women’s rights and children’s rights intensified; young people and women were prominent in these mobilizations. Brazil did not present itself as a candidate for re-election to a seat on the UN Human Rights Council.”
This report also provides further accounts that illustrate violence by an unaccountable police force. These accounts include:
- In 2014 more than 3,000 people were killed by the police, an increase of around 37% over 2013
- In an operation by Military Police officers during an operation in the neighborhood of Cabula in the city of Salvador Amnesty found strong evidence suggesting that the 12 people were extrajudicially executed.
- Reports that off-duty officers carried out unlawful killings as part of death squads operating in a number of cities
- In Manaus in the northern state of Amazonas, 37 people were killed in a single weekend in July.
- In Osasco, a city in the metropolitan area of São Paulo, 18 people were killed in one night and initial investigations indicated the involvement of Military Police officers
- Out of 220 investigations into police killings opened in 2011 in the city of Rio de Janeiro, by 2015 only one case had led to a police officer being charged. As of April 2015, 183 of these investigations remained open.
Even though we cannot authenticate Telesur’s claims that police are specifically killing children to “clean streets” in advance of the 2016 Olympics, what is clear is that Brazil’s police are operating in a very violent manner, with impunity, against economically disadvantaged people all throughout Brazil. For more information on the subject of police violence in Brazil, Amnesty provides the following:
- Brazil: Police operation kills two and injures others (AMR 19/2424/2015)
- Brazil: Twelve people killed by Military Police (AMR 19/002/2015)
- Brazil: Military police attack protesting teachers (AMR 19/1611/2015)
- Brazil: Indigenous community faces forced eviction (AMR 19/2151/2015)