Police oversight

Organizations question São Paulo Public Prosecutor’s Office over lack of investigation into abuses at protests

São Paulo - Concentração do quinto ato do Movimento Passe Livre no Terminal Parque Dom Pedro II, em São Paulo (Rovena Rosa/Agência Brasil) São Paulo - Concentração do quinto ato do Movimento Passe Livre no Terminal Parque Dom Pedro II, em São Paulo (Rovena Rosa/Agência Brasil)

Several organizations associated with the defense of human rights submitted a representation this Wednesday, February 3, questioning the omission by the MPSP (São Paulo Public Prosecutor’s Office) with respect to the violent and disproportionate action of the Military Police in recent protests against the increase in public transport fares.

ConectasArtigo 19IBCCRIM (Brazilian Criminal Sciences Institute), the Human Rights Commission of the São Paulo Union of Lawyers and the Human Rights Center and Ombuds Office of the São Paulo Public Defender’s Office concluded that the MPSP is failing in its duty to oversee and investigate the state public security forces – a responsibility assigned to it by the Brazilian Constitution and state laws. The Public Prosecutor’s Office has 30 days to publicly respond to the organizations.

Click here to read the representation in full.

“Society needs to know that the Public Prosecutor’s Office has a constitutional obligation to investigate abuses committed by the police, whatever they may be. There is a consensus that the São Paulo Public Prosecutor’s Office has been remiss when it comes to police violence at protests,” said Rafael Custódio, coordinator of the Justice program at Conectas.

According to article 129 of the Constitution, the office is responsible for the “external oversight of police activity”.

The document submitted by the organizations is also based on the national and state laws 8625/93 and 734/93, respectively, that regulate, among other duties of the office, the opening and monitoring of investigative procedures for holding government agents accountable.

The law regulating the MPSP also grants the office the authority to request that the São Paulo State Public Security Department open inquiries into omissions or unlawful acts committed by the police and to require measures to redress illegalities or abuse of power, which has not been observed.

Police officer points gun loaded with live ammunition at demonstrator

Rules on the use of force

Since 2013, the São Paulo state government, via the Military Police, has been staging frequent episodes of repression, violence and illegality at public demonstrations.

Although there is no legislation governing police action at protests, there are national rules and manuals, as well as recommendations drafted by experts from the UN and the OAS that provide guidance on how the police should behave in these situations.

During the mass demonstrations of June 2013, Conectas and the Human Rights Center of the Public Defender’s Office sent the São Paulo Public Security Department a document containing these recommendations and consolidating them into six key rules. See here.

Given the lack of action by this department, in April 2014 the organizations took the request to court, in a Civil Public Action filed by the Human Rights Center of the Public Defender’s Office and an amicus curiae submitted by the organizations Conectas and Article 19. The cases sought to fill the legislative vacuum concerning the regulation of police activity and also to ban the use of rubber bullets at demonstrations. A trial court judge accepted the request in a preliminary ruling, but the decision was overturned a week later by the State Court, where it remains stalled.


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