GENEVA (6 July 2022) - Following the killing of at least 23 people by police over consecutive days, UN experts called on the Brazilian Government to adopt wide-ranging reforms to put an end to police violence, de-militarise all law enforcement agencies and vigorously address systemic racism and racial discrimination.
On 25 May 2022, Brazilian security forces reportedly fired indiscriminately during a raid on Favela Cruzeiro, Rio de Janeiro, killing at least 23 people, including children, most of whom were Afro-Brazilians.
The following day, the police stopped a neurodivergent Afro-Brazilian riding his motorbike in Umbaúba. Despite the victim being unarmed, the three police officers reportedly used pepper spray and tear gas, and put the man in the trunk of their car. He died a short time later.
“These shocking reports suggest an unconscionable disregard for human life,” the experts said.
“We have repeatedly raised our concerns about the excessive and lethal use of force used by Brazilian law enforcement officials and the disproportionate impact on Brazilians of African descent. However, the latest reports of police brutality appear to show that such human rights violations continue with impunity.”
The experts reiterated calls to adhere to international standards governing the use of force. “The use of potentially lethal force is an extreme measure, which may be resorted to only when strictly necessary to protect life or prevent serious injury from an imminent threat,” the experts said.
They stressed the need to effectively, independently and promptly investigate the latest incidents, including in accordance with the 2016 Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death and the United Nations Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions, and to ensure justice for the victims and their families. “The victims of these killings deserve justice. The Brazilian Government must ensure that their deaths are effectively and independently investigated and that victims, their families and affected communities are offered appropriate redress.”
The experts called for comprehensive reform of law enforcement in Brazil. “The new wave of violence is the latest manifestation of systemic and sustained deployment of excessive and lethal use of force by law enforcement officials in Brazil,” they said.
“We call on the Brazilian Government to address the root causes of such violence through far-reaching reforms to all relevant branches of law enforcement. Such reform must encompass targeted efforts to eliminate racial profiling and racial discrimination, to de-militarise the police and improve the laws and guidelines governing the use of force.”
The UN experts have been in official communication with the Brazilian Government to address these allegations and clarify its obligations under international law.
*The UN experts: Ms E. Tendayi Achiume, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; Mr Morris Tidball-Binz, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; and Ms. Catherine S. Namakula, Chair of the Working Group on People of African Descent.
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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