GENEVA (30 July 2018) – A UN human rights expert is calling for “prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigations” into the death of a 14-year-old schoolboy following a security operation jointly conducted on 20 June by the army and police in the Maré favela complex in Rio de Janeiro.
Marcos Vinicius da Silva, who was wearing his school uniform and was on his way home from school, died in hospital after he was shot in the stomach. The operation involved the deployment of helicopters, which flew over the Maré complex and fired shots. A total of seven people were reportedly killed.
“A young child’s life was cut short seemingly for no other reasons than where he lived and for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. His killing violates all the principles that should guide the use of lethal force, whether by the police or military. I wish to extend my sincere condolences to his family and friends,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard.
“The Brazilian authorities must ensure that those responsible are brought to justice, and that full reparation, including compensation, is made to the child’s family, as appropriate.”
Ms Callamard expressed concern at the militarisation of policing operations in Brazil, and at national legislation making it possible for military courts to investigate and try intentional killings of civilians committed by agents of the armed forces. She stressed that the military justice system should try only members of the military accused of crimes that are of an exclusively military nature, or breaches of military discipline.
The expert on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions also expressed concern about the legitimate defence reform proposal currently under consideration by the Brazilian Senate’s Commission on Constitution, Justice and Citizenship. Under the proposal, self-defence would be presumed in any case where a public security officer kills or injures anyone illegally carrying a restricted-use firearm.
“This proposal carries the risk of creating a legal presumption of legitimate defence in all cases when public security agents kill or injure those who carry firearms of restricted use anywhere and at anytime,” the expert said.
“Only in exceptional circumstances should State officials be able to claim self-defence, or defence of others, as a justification for their decision to use force. If it is possible to avoid the threat without resorting to force, then law enforcement must use alternative non-violent and non-lethal methods.
“I urge the authorities not only to bring to justice those responsible for the death of this child, Marcos Vinicius da Silva, but also to ensure that relevant national legislation is in line with international human rights law and standards,” the expert emphasised.
Ms Agnes Callamard (France), Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, has a distinguished career in human rights and humanitarian work globally. Ms Callamard is the Director of Columbia Global Freedom of Expression at Columbia University and has previously worked with Article 19 and Amnesty International. She has advised multilateral organizations and governments around the world, has led human rights investigations in more than 30 countries, and has published extensively on human rights and related fields.
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
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