Annual Report: Brazil 2011

May 28, 2011

Annual Report: Brazil 2011

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In Rio de Janeiro, further Police Pacification Units were installed in favelas, achieving reductions in violence. However, outside of these projects, police violence, including killings, remained widespread. According to official statistics, police killed 855 people in situations described as "acts of resistance" in 2010.

In November, in response to gang violence, including the burning of more than 150 vehicles and attacks on police posts, police mounted operations across the city. More than 50 people were killed in confrontations between police and drug gangs in the space of a week. Civil Police killed seven people in a single operation in the community of Jacarezinho. In the community of Vila Cruzeiro, a 14-year-old girl was killed inside her house when she was hit by a stray bullet. At the end of the week, over 2,600 men, supported by the army and the navy, staged a major operation in the Complexo do Alemão, a group of shanty towns in the city's northern zone where Rio's largest drug faction had set up headquarters. The complex was swiftly taken and at the end of the year was under the control of the army, awaiting the possible future deployment of a Police Pacification Unit.

Militias and death squads

Militias (armed paramilitary-style groups) continued to dominate many areas of Rio de Janeiro and a large number of the recommendations of the 2008 parliamentary inquiry into the militias had not been implemented by the end of 2010.

  • In September, Leandro Baring Rodrigues was shot dead as he drove his car. A year earlier, he had witnessed the killing of his brother, Leonardo Baring Rodrigues, who had testified against the militias in the case of a massacre of seven people in the Barbante favela in 2008.

Death squads, many made up of off-duty law enforcement officers, continued to operate in many states. In August, a report presented by the Council for the Defence of Human Rights - a federal body which investigates human rights violations - concluded that death squads, often contracted by local businesses to threaten, torture and kill petty thieves, were operating with impunity in Ceará state.

  • More than 30 people living on the streets were killed in Maceió, the capital of Alagoas state, in what state prosecutors suggested could be attempts by vigilantes to "clean up" the city. Investigations into the killings were slow; by November, investigations into only four cases had been completed and passed on to the prosecution services.

There was a spate of multiple homicides in São Paulo in which the perpetrators were suspected of having links to police death squads and criminal gangs. According to official figures, between January and the end of September, 240 people had been killed in 68 separate incidents across the capital and greater São Paulo.

Torture, other ill-treatment and prison conditions

Torture was widespread at the point of detention and in police cells, prisons and juvenile detention systems.

  • In April, a motorcycle courier was tortured to death inside a military police base in São Paulo. He died after being repeatedly kicked in the face and beaten with sticks and a chain by a group of police officers. Twelve police officers were later charged in connection with the death.

Prisons remained severely overcrowded and inmates were held in conditions amounting to cruel, degrading or inhuman treatment. The authorities had effectively lost control of many facilities, leading to a series of riots and homicides.