The government of Rio de Janeiro state must ensure a prompt, thorough, and impartial investigation of the killing of unarmed individuals during recent clashes between criminal groups and police, Human Rights Watch said today. Anyone found to have unlawfully killed any of the victims should be prosecuted.
According to government figures quoted in press reports, 44 people were killed during a two-month police operation aimed at dismantling drug trafficking gangs in Complexo do Alemão, Rio de Janeiro’s poorest neighborhood. Violence reached a peak on Wednesday, when 19 people were killed during confrontations with the police. According to allegations widely reported in the Brazilian media, the police carried out many of the killings through summary executions.
“A thorough investigation of these killings is absolutely critical for establishing the truth and improving public confidence in local law enforcement,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “The state must ensure independent inquiries that will lead to successful prosecutions, no matter who the perpetrators are.”
According to the state’s Secretary of Security, José Mariano Beltrame, all of the deaths occurred in confrontations with the police. However, in media reports, residents said that police killed and wounded unarmed bystanders. Three teenagers, ages 13, 14 and 16, were identified among the dead yesterday. Residents also claimed that police had killed a 10-year-old boy.
Last year, 1,063 people were killed in alleged confrontations with police in the state of Rio, according to the Institute of Public Security (ISP), the official statistics bureau for public security information. In the first four months of 2007, their bureau registered some 449 deaths, an increase of 36.5 percent in relation to the same period last year.
The operation in the Complexo do Alemão occurs just two weeks before the beginning of the Pan-American Games in the city.