Thirty Rio police to be charged with homicide

Thirty police officers in Brazil are to be charged with homicide, after an investigation that implicated them in the formation of a death squad and unlawful killings.

Rio de Janeiro’s Public Prosecutors Office will be charging the officers, following its investigation into the deaths of 20 people killed by police during operations in the city’s shantytowns from 2007-8. All of them were registered as “acts of resistance”, a term used by the police to claim that proportionate force was used during police operations that result in deaths. Only two of the victims had prior criminal records and all had wounds suggesting extrajudicial execution.

Amnesty International on Tuesday welcomed the news and the police’s full co-operation with the investigation. The organization said it would continue to monitor the case. It also urged prosecutors to extend the investigation into the over 1,000 “acts of resistance” that occur annually across the state.

Human rights groups in Brazil and around the world have condemned the registration of police killings as “acts of resistance” – now running at around three cases per day in the state of Rio de Janeiro. There are strong indications that the term is routinely used as a cover-up for summary executions. In his 2008 report on Brazil, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings concluded: “the present system constitutes a carte blanche for police killings”.

Amnesty International has long called for an end to the use of the term and for the designation of all police killings as homicide, subject to thorough and independent investigation.

The organization said that is time for the state authorities to build on recent initiatives, and create a police force that is accountable, professional, and responsive to the needs of all communities.