EXTERNAL AI Index: AMR 19/15/95
UA 198/95 Possible Extrajudicial Executions / Fear for safety /
Medical concern 11 August 1995
BRAZILSquatter peasants in Corumbiara, Rondônia State
A confrontation between Rondônia state military police and a group of 500
squatter peasant (posseiro) families is reported to have left at least 11
peasants - including two children - and two policemen dead and over 200 people
wounded. The full death toll is not known, but reports indicate that it may
be considerably higher. Furthermore, there is serious concern for some of
the gravely wounded whose whereabouts are unknown, and other peasants who remain
From 15 July families of landless peasant families began occupying an
uncultivated forest area of the Santa Elina estate, in Corumbiara municipality
in the interior of Rondônia state. An attempt by some 40 military police to
carry out an eviction order on 19 July was unsuccessful. By 8 August some
500 peasant families - approximately 2,500 people - had camped on the estate.
On 8 August an estimated 200 heavily armed military police, reportedly
accompanied by private guards from the Santa Elina estate who had previously
threatened the peasants, entered the region. Negotiations for an alternative
place for the families to move to were unsuccessful.
It is not clear if the police or the peasants initiated the confrontation.
At about 4am on 9 August, military police reportedly began throwing tear gas
into the encampment and entered firing. The peasants were reportedly armed
with farm implements and sticks, but gunshots were also reportedly fired at
the police. According to survivors who escaped by throwing themselves into
a river, once inside the encampment police began to fire indiscriminately with
machine guns and other firearms wounding men, women and children alike.
The full toll of dead and wounded is not yet confirmed since many of the wounded
fled into the surrounding forest and have scattered throughout the region.
Many of the peasants remain unaccounted for. Survivors who witnessed the
violence fear that those who fled may include the gravely wounded. Thirty
gravely wounded peasants are being treated in hospitals in the towns of Colorado
do Oeste, Cerejeiras and Vilhena. A further 100 peasants have serious injuries,
and others are lightly wounded. Many of the wounds are reportedly consistent
with severe beatings.
On 9 August the military police sealed off the entire area of the estate and
independent access and verification was prevented. On 11 August a Ministry
of Justice official, representing the National Human Rights Council, and a
Parliamentary Commission of five Federal Congressmen were due to visit the
Some 300 peasants were arrested and detained in the gymnasium in the town of
Colorado do Oeste, and a further 150 were held in police stations. Some 70
women and 110 children were transferred to a community centre in the town.
By the evening of 10 August police reportedly began releasing detainees.