Rio police accused by residents of abuses in raid

Written By: BBC

The United Nations human rights office has strongly criticised a police raid against suspected drug traffickers in Rio de Janeiro.

The United Nations human rights office has strongly criticised a police raid against suspected drug traffickers in Rio de Janeiro, amid allegations of abuse and extrajudicial executions.

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The deadliest police operation in the city’s history has left 25 dead, including a police officer.

Residents say police killed suspects who wanted to surrender and entered homes without a warrant.

Police have denied any wrongdoing, saying officers acted in self-defence.

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Vast areas of Rio de Janeiro, one of Brazil’s most violent cities, are under the control of criminals, many of them linked to powerful drug-trafficking gangs. Security forces are often accused of disproportionate force during their anti-crime operations.

Thursday’s raid in Jacarezinho, one of the city’s largest slums known as favelas, was carried out by about 200 police officers and an armoured helicopter with a sniper. The area is controlled by one of Brazil’s largest criminal organisations, the Comando Vermelho, or Red Command.

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A television helicopter filmed heavily armed suspects jumping from rooftops, while desperate residents posted videos on social media showing intense shootouts as they claimed police invaded their houses and used excessive violence.

“There are boys who have been cornered in the house and want to surrender,” one resident said, referring to the suspects. “And the police want to kill them. They have even killed some in front of us.”

In another video, a resident filmed a police officer standing next to a house and said: “They’re cornering [the suspects]. They don’t want to let the boys surrender.”

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Public defender Maria JĂșlia Miranda said residents told her a suspect was killed in the bedroom of an eight-year-old girl where there were blood stains on the floor and on her bed, and that the family had witnessed the alleged execution.

Ms Miranda said she was “shocked” by seeing “lots of pools of blood… and walls with bullet marks” when visiting the favela. There was also evidence that the scenes of the killings were not preserved, she said, with bodies being removed. “On these cases, there was probably an execution.”

Human rights groups, including Amnesty International, said they had also received reports and images from residents saying that police officers had invaded their houses, and that people had been killed when they already offered no risk.

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“It’s completely unacceptable that security forces keep committing grave human rights violations such as those that occurred in Jacarezinho against residents of the favelas, who are mostly Black and live in poverty,” Jurema Werneck, executive director of Amnesty International Brazil, said in a statement, calling it a “massacre”.

The United Nations human rights office called for an independent investigation, describing it as a “long-standing trend of unnecessary and disproportionate” police operations against predominantly poor communities.

“You have the institutions which control these operations… So, it appears that collectively, they are not succeeding in stopping these kinds of really disturbing, over-the-top, lethal operations. So something is clearly wrong there,” said spokesman Rupert Colville.

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