Press Release

IACHR Condemns Police Raid that Led to the Deaths of Nine People in Brazil

December 6, 2019

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) is concerned about reports that nine people were killed and others were injured following a police raid in the Paraisópolis favela in São Paulo, Brazil. The Commission urges the State to promptly and impartially investigate these events and to punish anyone responsible for them, and also to provide reparations for victims and their families.

According to the information the IACHR has had access to, a raid conducted on December 1 by the military police of the state of São Paulo reportedly caused panic and triggered a stampede among attendees at a street party (described as a “funk dance”) in the Paraisópolis favela. Attendees allegedly crashed into and stomped on each other in their attempt to escape the site, which left nine people dead—including two adolescents aged 14 and 16—and at least seven injured.

According to the state of São Paulo’s Security Department, the military police raid was part of a broader operation launched at the Paraisópolis favela when two men riding a motorbike shot at police officers and fled toward the street party while shooting, which allegedly caused the stampede. Victims and witnesses of these events say that police shut off the street where the party was taking place and used tear gas and rubber bullets against attendees, and they stressed that there were no clashes at the site. According to publicly available reports and videos, police officers indiscriminately mistreated and abused young people, as attendees dispersed in the area where the cultural activity had been taking place. The IACHR has also been informed that the emergency medical services that were activated to provide immediate care to victims of these events were soon cancelled at the request of military officers from the Fire Department, and that there is strong evidence of omissions that need to be comprehensively investigated.

The Commission emphatically condemns this police raid and calls on the State to immediately launch a serious, impartial, and effective investigation of these events, to establish the truth and to identify, try, and eventually punish anyone responsible for them. The Commission further reminds the State of its duty to provide reparations for victims of violence and their families.

The IACHR has repeatedly expressed its concern about an excessive use of police force, particularly with regard to a high level of lethal action by police and its disproportionate impact on Afro-descendant persons. Further, during its in loco visit to Brazil in November 2018, the Commission found that, in a context marked by structural discrimination, police forces conducted raids focused on poor communities with a high proportion of Afro-descendant persons, without court warrants and without complying with international and inter-American human rights standards.

The Commission calls on the State to take any measures necessary to reform domestic legislation at both the federal and state levels and to ensure it complies with inter-American and universal human rights standards concerning the use of force in police raids, respecting the principles of exceptionality, necessity, proportionality, and legality.

The IACHR stresses that the State must ensure community participation in the design of supervision strategies and mechanisms aimed at improving the performance of police officers and to adopt any legislative measures required to reverse the militarization of the police. Finally, the IACHR calls on the State of Brazil to review its security protocols with a human rights focus.

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. 318/19