IACHR Press Office
Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns systemic police violence against Afro-descendant persons in Brazil 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, adopting a cross-sectional ethnic-racial approach.
A police raid conducted on May 24, 2022, by the Special Operations Unit of the Rio de Janeiro Military Police, the Federal Police, and the Federal Roads Police left at last 25 people dead and more than 5 injured in the Vila Cruzeiro favela (slum), in Rio de Janeiro. This case joins those of the favelas Acarí (1990), Vigario Geral (1993), Nova Brasilia (1994 and 1995), Borel (2003), Fallet Fogueteiro (2019), Jacarenzinho (2021), and Complexo do Salgueiro (2021). All of them involved violent police raids, more common in areas with high concentrations of Afro-descendant persons and greater socioeconomic vulnerability.
The IACHR notes with concern that research by Fluminense Federal University shows that, over the period 2007–2021, a total of 17,929 police raids were conducted in Rio de Janeiro favelas. Of these, 593 led to massacres that left a total of 2,374 people dead, amounting to 41% of the total death toll in police raids.
The Commission was further informed of the death of Genivaldo de Jesús Santos, an Afro-descendant man with a mental disability, following a Federal Roads Police raid in Sergipe on May 25, 2022. After being found driving his motorbike without a helmet, Santos was asked to enter a police vehicle by police officers who then activated a gas bomb, according to available video recordings. These extremely cruel events led to Santos' death of suffocation, according to the preliminary autopsy.
The Commission notes the multiple, aggravated discrimination that Afro-descendant persons may face when their ethnic-racial background intersects with other factors, including disability and socioeconomic status.
The IACHR reminds Brazil of its 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 reducing police violence and the number of police killings. The Commission further urges the State to ensure that public security measures do not directly or indirectly discriminate against individuals or groups based on their ethnic or racial background and other similar criteria, in compliance with the Inter-American Convention Against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Forms of Intolerance.
Finally, the IACHR stresses its call on Brazil to prevent and eradicate institutional violence linked to racial discrimination patterns against Afro-descendant persons, and particularly to carry out reform of the protocols and guidelines applied by local, state, and federal institutions to ensure that the use of racial profiling and other explicit or implicit discriminatory practices based on ethnic-racial criteria are expressly punished. Brazil is further asked to ensure timely and comprehensive reparations for victims, including effective judicial remedies, redress, guarantees of non-recurrence, and compensation.
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.