Brazil: "One of deadliest cities on earth" - warning ahead of Rio Olympics

Residents look on as military police officers patrol in Complexo da Mare, favela
Military police officers patrol in Complexo da Mare, favela in Rio © Getty Images
  • Over 100 – mainly young black – men killed by police in Rio already this year

Brazil is at risk of repeating the deadly mistakes it has been making in policing for decades; errors which were seen during the 2014 FIFA World Cup and which often leave a legacy of suffering and devastation warned Amnesty International today as it published a new report two months ahead of the 2016 Olympic Games.  

 

Amnesty’s new report - ‘Violence has no place in these games! Risk of human rights violations at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games’ - reveals how the Brazilian authorities and sports governing bodies in Rio de Janeiro have put in place the same ill-conceived security policies which led to a sharp increase in homicides and human rights violations by security forces since the 2014 World Cup. This jeopardises the promised Olympic legacy of a safe city for all, said Amnesty.

 

Amnesty International Brazil Director Atila Roque said: 

 

“When Rio was awarded the 2016 Olympic Games in 2009, the authorities promised to improve security for all. Instead, we have seen 2,500 people killed by police since then in the city and very little justice.

 

“Brazil seems to have learned very little from the great mistakes it made over the years when it comes to public security. The policy of ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ has placed Rio de Janeiro as one of the deadliest cities on earth. 

 

“The country’s historic ill-conceived public security policies, coupled with the increasing human rights violations we have documented during major sports events and the lack of effective investigations, are a recipe for disaster.”

 

Dozens of people were injured and hundreds were arbitrarily detained when police clamped down on protests across the country ahead of and during the 2014 World Cup. That same year, as police and military were tasked with “securing” the cities hosting the World Cup games, at least 580 people were killed during policing operations in the state of Rio de Janeiro alone. 

 

In 2014, homicides resulting from police operations rose a shocking 40% - and an extra 11% the following year with 645 people killed by police in Rio de Janeiro alone. One in every five killings in the city were committed by police on duty.

 

So far this year, more than 100 people have been killed in Rio. The vast majority of the victims were young black men living in favelas or other marginalised areas. 

 

The authorities have recently announced the deployment of around 65,000 police officers and 20,000 military soldiers to guard the Olympic Games, in what will be the largest security operation in Brazil’s history.  This will include the deployment of military personnel to direct operations in favelas, which in the past has resulted in a catalogue of human rights violations that are yet to be properly investigated. 

 

In April 2014, months before the start of the World Cup, thousands of military troops were deployed to the Complex of Maré, a group of 16 favelas located near Rio de Janeiro’s international airport, home to around 14,000 people. 

 

Military troops, who were not properly trained nor equipped to carry out public safety tasks, were supposed to leave soon after the World Cup concluded. However, they continued to police the favela until June of last year. 

 

The case of 30-year-old Vitor Santiago Borges highlights the tragic consequences of military policing in the Maré Complex of favelas. In the early morning of 13 February 2015, Vitor was driving back home with some friends when the armed forces opened fire on the vehicle without any warning.  

 

Victor was severely wounded, fell into a coma and had to remain in hospital for more than three months. He is now paralysed from the waist down and had a leg amputated. The authorities have failed to provide him or his family with adequate assistance or to conduct a full and impartial investigation into the shooting. No one has been held to account so far.

 

Amnesty is warning that the lessons from the 2014 World Cup have not been learned. In March, the president at the time Dilma Rousseff signed a new Anti-terrorism Law which includes overly-vague language that could allow the law to be used against peaceful protesters and activists. 

 

On 10 May this year, the Federal Government signed a new “General Law of the Olympics”. The law imposes new restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in many areas of the host city which are contrary to international law and standards and do not address the use of unnecessary and excessive force by security forces while policing assemblies. 

  

Atila Roque added:

 

“Brazilian authorities are not only failing to deliver the promised Olympic legacy of a safe country for all, but are also failing to ensure that law enforcement officials meet international law and standards on the use of force and firearms.

 

“Two months ahead of the Olympics, there is still time to put in place measures to mitigate the risk of human rights violations and establish accountability mechanisms for those found responsible for violating human rights. As the global sports community gathers in Rio in two months, the question remains: will the authorities respect and protect human rights and deliver the promised legacy of a safe city and country for all?”  

 

Link to the report 

 

 

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Violence has no place in these games! Risk of human rights violations at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games