Limits on repression

São Paulo court to rule this Tuesday on the use of grenades and rubber bullets by military police at protests

The 3rd Public Law Chamber of the São Paulo State Court will decide next Tuesday, April 12, whether to uphold the trial court injunction that restricts the use of less-lethal weapons by the military police at protests. This category of weapons includes rubber bullets, stun grenades and tear gas.

The injunction also calls for negotiators to be appointed to mediate with demonstrators and requires all officers to be identifiable. Finally, it requires the police to come up with a clear and public regulation, based on international standards, to govern the use of force in demonstrations. Brazil does not have a law on this issue. The Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for the military police, which could serve this purpose, are confidential and knowingly disregarded by the police – as demonstrated in an article by the Ponte journalism website, which had access to the document.

Click here to sign the petition to end the abusive use of force by the military police.

“Societal control of institutions is a key feature of democracy and, for this to occur satisfactorily, in the case of the military police the operating standards must be public and transparent. Without this, it is impossible to monitor and report abuses,” said Rafael Lessa, of the Citizenship and Human Rights Center of the São Paulo Public Defender’s Office.

Click here to read the trial court injunction in full.

Click here to read the suspension published by the State Court.

The case that gave rise to the injunction was filed by the Public Defender’s Office based on reports of abuse during the mass protests in June 2013. Two organizations were granted amicus curiae status during the case: Conectas Human Rights and Article 19. Amicus curiae is a legal instrument that allows outside actors in a case to submit a technical opinion on the issue under review. In this case, both organizations endorsed the position of the Public Defender’s Office.

According to the two organizations, the actions of the police in 2013 violated the rights of freedom of assembly and expression and left no doubt that officers disrespect international rules and standards.

“The actions of the military police are marked by violence and a profound lack of predictability and transparency. This urgently needs to change and we believe that the injunction is an important step in this direction,” said Rafael Custódio, coordinator of the Justice program at Conectas. “Given the number of violations that have been witnessed, the military police has demonstrated that it still ignores international rules that govern this issue. The São Paulo justice system has the opportunity to put an end to this regulatory vacuum and finally put limits on repression,” said Camila Marques, a lawyer at Article 19.

The trial court ruling of Judge Valentino Aparecido Andrade was given in October 2014. However, the injunction was suspended less than two weeks later by the then reporting judge, Ronaldo Andrade, also from the 3rd Public Law Chamber. The decision on whether to uphold or suspend the injunction now lies with state court judges Maurício Fiorito (current reporting judge), Camargo Pereira and Antonio Carlos Malheiros. The case will be heard at 9:30 am in Courtroom 618 of the Palace of Justice (headquarters of the São Paulo State Court), in downtown São Paulo.

Click here to read 10 questions and answers on the use of force by the military police at protests.


08/05/13 – Conectas and the Citizenship and Human Rights Center of the São Paulo Public Defender’s Office submit to the São Paulo State Public Security Department a series of recommendations on how the police should act in demonstrations. No response was ever given.

04/22/14 – The São Paulo Public Defender’s Office files a public civil action asking the courts to compel the state of São Paulo to adopt these recommendations. The case is pending in the 10th Public Finance Court.

07/17/14 – Conectas presents an amicus curiae brief with an overview of the main international standards that regulate police conduct and alleges that the state of São Paulo fails to comply with provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (of the UN) and the American Convention on Human Rights (of the OAS).

10/24/14 – Judge Valentino Aparecido de Andrade, of the 10th Public Finance Court, grants an injunction.

01/13/15 – Article 19 presents an amicus curiae brief supporting the initial request of the Public Defender’s Office.

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