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A resident waves a white sheet in protest and to ask for peace after a police operation that resulted in multiple deaths, in the Complexo do Alemao favela in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 21, 2022.    ©2022 AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo

An operation by civil and military police in Complexo do Alemão on July 21, 2022, with the support of the federal highway police, was one of the deadliest in Rio de Janeiro’s history.

Police authorities confirmed at least 18 deaths, though media reports suggest that the number of victims could be higher. The ombudsman for the Public Defender’s Office in Rio de Janeiro said that there are reports of serious human rights violations, including home invasions, beatings, torture, threats, and failure to rescue injured people.

“We are deeply concerned that once again Rio de Janeiro has witnessed a police operation with a high death toll and serious impacts on communities, this time in Complexo do Alemão,” said Maria Laura Canineu, Brazil director at Human Rights Watch. “The state and federal prosecutor’s offices should immediately conduct a thorough and independent investigation to establish those responsible and the circumstances of the deaths and injuries, in accordance with the constitutional mandate to exercise external control over the police.”

In June 2020, Brazil’s Supreme Court prohibited police from conducting operations in low-income neighborhoods in Rio, except in “absolutely exceptional cases.” Police have failed to properly abide by the ruling. Rio de Janeiro registered 628 killings by police in the first half of 2022.

“The state government of Rio de Janeiro should immediately implement an adequate plan, in consultation with civil society, to curb police killings – as ordered by the Supreme Court,” Canineu said. “Investigating and holding accountable those responsible in cases of police abuse are key to stop the cycle of violence that endangers residents and the police, with disastrous consequences for public security.”

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