Ongoing police brutality in Brazil is now considered a full-blown human rights crisis. Earlier this year, the Brazilian military police pledged to reduce police killings by 20 percent before the end of 2018 in the Brazilian State of Rio de Janeiro. However, from January to July, the number of Rio de Janeiro police killings have increased by 39 percent compared with the same period last year where police killed 895 people. If this trend continues, this will be Brazil’s deadliest year of police killings in more than a decade.
Human Rights Watch stated that despite the high figures, some do not see any issue with the killings: “There is a persistent view in Brazil that the best way to reduce crime is to carry out military-style raids in poor neighbourhoods. Some are untroubled by how often these kill suspects – and the occasional bystander.” Human Rights Watch continued, describing a recent police operation in June where seven people died, including 14-year-old Marcos Vinícius da Silva, who was on his way to school. Before he died of his wounds, he asked his mother “didn’t they see my school uniform?”
According to The Guardian, Robert Muggah, research director of the Igarapé Institute said, “Unfortunately, police violence here has been a tragic reality for some time.” Muggah blames the police killings of recent years on the “military police being trained in aggressive tactics, an organisational culture that tolerates high levels of force, and the economic and political crisis in Brazil.” Jurema Werneck, Executive Director at Amnesty International Brazil said “…instead of guiding the police to protect and preserve life, the state has reinforced the notion that the police’s role is to kill.” Werneck continued that “very little has been done to reduce the number of homicides, to control the use of force by the police, or to guarantee indigenous rights as claimed in Brazil’s constitution. UN member states must make clear to Brazil that this has to change.”
While some Rio de Janeiro police killings are committed in self-defence, research from Human Rights Watch show that many killings are in fact extrajudicial executions. Brazil is evidently not doing enough to end these rights violations. Police brutality creates an ongoing cycle of fear and violence. Rio de Janeiro police should strive to protect the people and uphold the law, not to be state official killers. It is hoped that other UN members will speak out against these extrajudicial executions and help Brazil implement a non-violent action plan to bring crime under control in Rio de Janeiro and the country as a whole.
The Brazilian military police have continually been accused of ignoring this human rights crisis. Brazil has one of the highest rates of homicide in the world, with almost 60,000 victims in 2015. The majority of victims are reported to be young black men. Also, in 2015, police in Rio de Janeiro were responsible for one in every five killings and one in four in São Paulo. Brazil’s congress is debating whether firearm restrictions should be loosened due to the increased violence.
Brazil needs to understand that violence only breeds more violence and that thought-out and comprehensive policies can combat crime much more efficiently than the widespread loss of life ever could.