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Brazil: death threats / fear for safety: Mauricio Assayag, Jose Muinos Pineiro, Maria Lucia Capiberibe (f)

, Index number: AMR 19/013/1995

Public prosecutors (promotores) Mauricio Assayag and Jose Muinos Pineiro and Judge Maria Lucia Capiberibe have reportedly been receiving increasingly frequent death threats. The threats are thought to be related to their role in legal proceedings against a number of military and civil police officials charged with the "Vigario Geral" massacre in which 21 people were killed on 31 August 1993. AI is calling on the authorities to take immediate steps to guarantee the physical safety of the people named in this action.

EXTERNAL (for general distribution) AI Index: AMR 19/13/95
Distr: UA/SC
UA 167/95 Death threats / Fear for safety 10 July 1995
BRAZIL Mauricio ASSAYAG, public prosecutor
José MUIÑOS PIÑEIRO, public prosecutor
Maria Lucia CAPIBERIBE (f), judge
Public prosecutors (promotores) Mauricio Assayag and José Muiños Piñeiro and
Judge Maria Lucia Capiberibe, all from the Second Criminal Court (II Tribunal
do Júri) of Rio de Janeiro, are reported to have been receiving increasingly
frequent death threats. The threats are believed to be related to their role
in the court proceedings against a number of military and civil police
functionaries charged with the "Vigário Geral Massacre", in which 21 residents
of the Vigário Geral shanty town (favela) in Rio de Janeiro were extrajudicially
executed on 31 August 1993.
On that date, over 30 hooded and heavily armed men attacked the shanty town
of Vigário Geral, on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. The attack was reportedly
committed in revenge for the killing, two days earlier, of four military police
officers by alleged drug traffickers based in the shanty town. Following an
initial investigation, police charges were brought against 28 military
policemen, three civil police and two members of the state Public Security
In recent court hearings, many of the details of the massacre have been revealed.
In an attempt to implicate others, some of the police officers in preventive
detention secretly taped their co-detainees' statements in which they admitted
responsibility for the killings and gave details of the operation. The officers
also named a number of other people, not yet charged, as having been involved.
Evidence produced in last week's court hearings appear to confirm that the
killing was a police operation. Thirty-six people, most of them military police
soldiers and officers from the 9th Military Police Battalion, allegedly
participated in the killings. It was also revealed that at least four
participants in the killings were murdered by their accomplices to prevent
them giving evidence and that there were plans to murder prosecutors Assayag
and Piñeiro and Judge Capiberibe.
The scale and barbarity of the Vigário Geral massacre stunned Brazilian public
opinion and became international news. These killings, however, were only
remarkable because of the number of victims and the number of assailants
involved. Similar incidents, although on a smaller scale, go unnoticed and
almost unreported in the poor quarters of Brazil's main cities. There are
no comprehensive or reliable figures on which to base an estimate for the number
of extrajudicial executions in Brazil. However, in Rio de Janeiro, in the
10 months between the Vigário Geral massacre in September 1993 and June 1994,
1,200 people were reported to have been killed by death squads. The vast
majority of these cases remain unresolved. The Vigário Geral case has become
a test case of the Brazilian justice ability to punish according to the law
those responsible for the killings.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/faxes/airmail letters in Portuguese
or your own language:
- expressing concern for the safety of prosecutors Mauricio Assayag and José
Muiños Piñeiro and Judge Maria Lucia Capiberibe following death threats against
- urging the authorities to take immediate steps to guarantee their physical
- requesting that the threats be thoroughly investigated and those responsible
brought to justice;
- stressing the need for justice to be done in the case of the Vigário Geral
massacre, and thus for full support to be given to law officers involved in
trying the case, as well as witnesses and families of victims.
Governor of Rio de Janeiro
Exmo Sr Governador do Estado do Rio de Janeiro
Sr Marcelo Alencar
Palacio Guanabara
Rua Pinheiro Machado s/n
22.231 Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brasil
Faxes: +55 21 553 6090
Telegrams: Governador Rio de Janeiro, Brasil
Salutation: Vossa Excelência/ Your Excellency/Su Excelencia
State Secretary for Public Security
Exmo Sr. Secretário de Segurança Pública
do Estado de Rio de Janeiro
Gral Nilton Cerqueira
Rua Barão de Itambi N.60, 9 Andar, Botafogo
22.231 - Rio de Janeiro- RJ - Brazil
Faxes: +55 21 240 9159
Telegrams: Secretário de Segurança Pública, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Salutation: Sr Secretário/ Mr Secretary
Second Criminal Court
Segundo Tribunal do Júri do Rio de Janeiro
Rua Erasmo Braga 115, 2o andar, Corredor C, sala 213
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Jornal "O Dia"
Rua do Riachuelo 359
20235-900, Rio de Janeiro,
Faxes: (+)(55 21)5071228
and to diplomatic representatives of Brazil accredited to your country.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat,
or your section office, if sending appeals after 20 August 1995.

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