ADPF Favelas Case wins another victory in Supreme Court

Majority of the court justices set limits on Rio de Janeiro’s public security policy and on police violence in the favelas

Maré favela in the north side of the city of Rio de Janeiro (photo: Douglas Lopes) Maré favela in the north side of the city of Rio de Janeiro (photo: Douglas Lopes)

In a virtual session that ended on the evening of Monday, August 17, the Supreme Court placed new restrictions on police violence in the favelas and urban outskirts of the state of Rio de Janeiro. The court justices unanimously determined to ban the police from firing guns from armored helicopters and to restrict police operations around schools and hospitals.

The decision was taken as part of ADPF (Allegation of Violation of a Fundamental Precept) Case No. 635, known as the “ADPF Favelas Case”. The judgment that ended yesterday began in April but was suspended after Justice Alexandre de Moraes requested an adjournment. Resumed on August 7, the session assessed the precautionary measures granted by the rapporteur of the case, Justice Edson Fachin. No date has yet been scheduled for the Supreme Court to judge the merits of the case.

The justices also granted other important points to protect the rights of the population of the favelas and reduce violence during police actions. Among them:

  • Prohibition on the use of schools and hospitals as operational bases for the civil and military police;
  • Preservation of crime scenes and no undue removal of bodies, under the pretext of providing medical assistance;
  • The police forensic bodies should document the forensic evidence and autopsy reports for the purpose of ensuring the possibility of independent reviews;
  • The investigations should meet the requirements of the Minnesota Protocol: they should be prompt, effective and thorough, as well as independent, impartial and transparent.

According to the social movements and organizations that participated as amici curiae in the case, yesterday’s session represents a major step towards combating police brutality and institutional racism.

“We, the organizations and movements engaged with ADPF Case 635, applaud the decision of the Brazilian Supreme Court that recognized that favelas are part of the city. The policy “of slaughter” adopted by Governor Wilson Witzel violates fundamental rights and is racist,” said the organizations in a statement. “We will remain mobilized to monitor and demand compliance with the decision.”

The restrictions come into effect as soon as the Rio de Janeiro State Government is notified. Unlike the decision that suspended police operations in Rio de Janeiro, the measures granted by the Supreme Court on Monday are not associated with the Covid-19 pandemic.

The ADPF Favelas Case was filed by the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB) and jointly drafted by the Public Defender’s Office of the State of Rio de Janeiro and the organizations Educafro, Justiça Global, Redes da Maré, Conectas Direitos Humanos, Movimento Negro Unificado, Iser, Iniciativa Direito à Memória e Justiça Racial, Coletivo Papo Reto, Coletivo Fala Akari, Rede de Comunidades and Movimento contra a Violência, Mães de Manguinhos – organizations that appeared as amici curiae, and also Observatório de Favelas, Grupo de Estudos dos Novos Ilegalismos (Geni/UFF), Maré Vive, Instituto Marielle Franco, Conselho Nacional de Direitos Humanos and CESeC.

Plan to reduce killings by the police

The Supreme Court justices did not reach a majority decision on the obligation for the state of Rio de Janeiro to develop a plan to reduce killings by the police and to control rights violations by the state’s security forces.

However, the court did order the suspension of the article that excludes, from the calculation of bonuses for police officers, indicators of reduced killings resulting from resistance to police intervention. In other words, reductions in killings by the police will once again be used to calculate bonuses.

Another measure rejected by the Supreme Court was the requirement to install cameras and GPS devices in police vehicles. A Rio de Janeiro state law already requires the use of this equipment, but it is not observed by the state government.

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