IACHR Condemns Death of At Least 9 People During a Police Raid in the Salgueiro Favela in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

December 13, 2021

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the deaths of at least nine people during a police raid in the Salgueiro favela (slum neighborhood) in São Gonçalo, in the Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro. The IACHR stresses its concern about persistent institutional violence and urges the State to promptly, diligently, and thoroughly investigate these events, punish anyone found responsible for them, and provide comprehensive redress for victims and their families.

According to publicly available reports, the Military Police launched a raid against organized crime in November 20–22 at the Salgueiro favela, which allegedly led to the deaths of at least nine people. The Commission notes that an investigation has been launched and that forensic examinations have been conducted to establish the circumstances of these deaths and investigate torture allegations in this context.

In a public statement dated November 22 where it also said that the scene had not been adequately preserved, the Ombudsperson's Office of the state of Rio de Janeiro expressed its concern about the Military Police's failure to immediately report to the Civilian Police and the Public Prosecutor's Office the presence of its officers in the community.

The IACHR notes that these events happened with the Federal Supreme Court decision—stemming from Action for Non-Compliance with a Fundamental Obligation (ADPF, by its Portuguese acronym) 635—dated June 5, 2020, in place. This decision ordered that police raids in Rio de Janeiro communities be suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic, except for exceptional cases where the state's Public Prosecutor's Office had been given prior notice.

The IACHR has been monitoring violent police operations in Brazil, which have gotten worse in the context of the pandemic and which are more frequent in areas with a high concentration of Afro-descendant persons. According to official statistics, São Gonçalo is the fourth municipality in Brazil with the largest share of Afro-descendant persons killed in police raids. The IACHR already condemned the police raid of May 6, 2021, which led to the death of at least 28 people at the Jacarezinho favela. This highlights the urgent need to change the militarization logic that prevails within police institutions.

The Commission therefore stresses the State's duty to ensure compliance with international standards concerning the use of force, based on the principles of legality, proportionality, and absolute necessity, with a view to reforming its citizen security policies. The IACHR further calls for compliance with its recommendation to punish acts of institutional violence linked to racial discrimination patterns.

Finally, the Commission stresses that, according to the Inter-American Convention Against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Forms of Intolerance—which Brazil has ratified—the State has a duty to ensure that security measures do not directly or indirectly discriminate against individuals or groups based on their ethnic or racial background and other similar criteria.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 339/21

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