Final Justice

Police and Death Squad Homicides of Adolescents in Brazil

Despite the considerable attention that has been brought to homicides of adolescents, impunity for those responsible for these abuses has in most respects, continued to prevail. As the cases in Final Justice reveal, this impunity is the product of several factors, but one primary cause is the lack of political will to adequately investigate and prosecute those responsible for violence against children and adolescents. When the will to prosecute does exist, investigations and convictions are possible. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case, and even individual convictions in a handful of high-profile cases may have little impact on the larger problem and on the structures of violence that fuel abuses by Brazil's police force and unofficial death squads. The struggle to end the pattern of homicides of adolescents will not be fast or easy. A large measure of blame for this violence must be attributed to the poverty, economic and racial inequalities, domestic violence and substance abuse problems that draw poor Brazilian youth onto the streets or into crime. Similarly, complex social forces and the banalization of violence create a situation where vigilante justice is frequently an acceptable method of protecting communities, which are often poorly served by their elected governments, from those who are perceived as criminals and threats to safety. Yet protecting Brazil's children and adolescents—and particularly the most common targets of violence: poor, black or dark-skinned adolescent boys—from violence cannot and should not wait for the solutions to other entrenched social problems, particularly when it is apparent that the police, either on- or off-duty, are responsible for a significant proportion of the killings.
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