ADPF Favelas Case returns to agenda of Supreme Court in week of new massacre caused by the police

Starting this Thursday, November 25, the Court will revisit the request for an injunction in the ADPF Favelas Case against the high rates of police lethality in Rio de Janeiro

Chacina no Complexo do Salgueiro, em São Gonçalo, deixando ao menos oito mortos. Foto: Reprodução TV/Globo Chacina no Complexo do Salgueiro, em São Gonçalo, deixando ao menos oito mortos. Foto: Reprodução TV/Globo

The Supreme Court will resume its judgment this Thursday, November 25, of an appeal submitted by the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB) and by NGOs and social movements engaged in ADPF Case No. 635, better known as the ADPF Favelas Case. The resumption of the judgment is taking place in the same week that yet another massacre occurred in Rio de Janeiro, this time in the Salgueiro favela complex, in the municipality of São Gonçalo, leaving at least eight people dead. 

In this judgment, the organizations are asking the state government of Rio de Janeiro to prepare a plan to reduce police lethality. The judgment began in May this year, but was suspended after Justice Alexandre de Moraes requested an adjournment. 

The appeal filed by the organizations challenges the precautionary measures approved by the Court in August 2020. At the time, the Court imposed some important measures, such as banning the police from firing guns from helicopters, restricting police operations around schools and hospitals, preserving crime scenes and not removing bodies from the scene for forensic purposes. However, the justices did not reach a majority decision on requiring the state of Rio de Janeiro to develop a plan to reduce police lethality and to control rights violations by the state’s security forces. 

According to Djefferson Amadeus, a coordinator at the IDPN (Institute for the Defense of the Black Population), a lawyer for the MNU (Unified Black Movement) and an amicus curiae in the case, the appeal asks for clarifications on the contradictions of the ruling on the plan to reduce police lethality. “The justices explained that there was no need for an urgent measure from the Supreme Court for this request because there is already a 2017 ruling from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights requiring the state of Rio de Janeiro to prepare such a plan,” said Amadeus. “But as the Rio de Janeiro state government never presented the document, the Supreme Court must act to reinforce the need for the state to comply with the ruling,” he added. According to the lawyer, Supreme Court case law provides for the request to be approved. 

According to a recent study from the Crossfire Institute – which has been monitoring gun violence in the city of Rio de Janeiro since 2016 – following the Supreme Court ruling, there was a decline of approximately 38% in shootings in the metropolitan region of the state capital. The data also show that, since the ADPF Case 635 measures were implemented, the number of deaths in police operations has fallen 35% (769) and the number of injuries has fallen 33% (912) compared to the period of one year and five months before the measures, when 1,178 people were killed and 1,353 were injured.

Definition of exceptionality 

In the same case, the organizations are also asking the Supreme Court to restrict the concept of “exceptionality” for conducting police operations. In the first injunction in the ADPF Favelas Case, in June 2020, Justice Fachin determined that new police operations could only occur “in absolutely exceptional cases that are properly justified in writing by the competent authority and notified immediately to the Public Prosecutor’s Office”. 

“The state of Rio de Janeiro has been attempting to broaden the concept of exceptionality to justify violent actions that bring terror to residents of the favelas and urban outskirts, such as the one that caused the death of 29 people in Jacarezinho,” said Shyrlei Rosendo, of Redes da Maré, one of the organizations that undersigned the appeal in the Supreme Court. “In our request, we want the Supreme Court to define this concept so the authorities in Rio de Janeiro can be held accountable for their blatant non-compliance with the ban on police operations during the pandemic,” she said. 

According to a technical report produced by researchers from GENI (Study Group of New Illegalisms), of the Fluminense Federal University, police operations should be limited to situations in which life is in clear and present danger, such as armed conflicts between gangs or kidnappings taking place inside the communities. 

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