Public statement on the killings in Guarujá

Social control to redress violations and avoid more deaths

Conectas Human Rights expresses its condemnation of the human rights violations reported in what is being called “Operation Shield” which is still ongoing and is likely to be extended, according to a statement by the governor of the state of São Paulo. 

We lament the death of the military police officer Patrick Bastos Reis, which occurred on Thursday, July 27, in the city of Guarujá, state of São Paulo. We are also deeply shocked by the death of 13 other people during the aforementioned operation that took place in the Baixada Santista region of the state following the death of Officer Reis.

The actions of the public authorities may not exceed the limits of the democratic rule of law, nor break the rules for police stops and standard operating procedures.

According to complaints submitted to the São Paulo State Police Ombudsman’s Office, there are reports of torture and murder carried out by police officers against one man, as well as threats of execution made against at least 60 people in communities in Guarujá. There are also witnesses who report screams and torture sessions and the subsequent transport of the victim in the trunk of a police vehicle.

Despite the killings and the signs of various types of abuse of power and authority, Governor Tarcísio de Freitas stated earlier this week that “the operation was successful” and he also claimed that all deaths occurred while resisting the police, even though he was unaware of more concrete and specific information about the case.

We hope there will be an impartial and independent investigation by the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the Police Internal Affairs Office and, in particular, by the São Paulo state government authorities.

The State Public Security Department has said that the police officers were wearing body cameras during the operation. As such, it is essential to fully guarantee access to the guidelines that regulate the collection, storage and use of the recorded images to demonstrate what actually happened.

The use and regulation of body cameras worn on police uniforms are measures that can contribute to the reduction of abuses committed by law enforcement officers during stops. Moreover, cameras can prevent the deaths of both civilians and the law enforcement officers themselves. In São Paulo, police lethality dropped 62.7% from 697 deaths in 2019 to 260 in 2022, according to research from the Brazilian Public Security Forum.

Following the killings in Guarujá, the Ministry of Justice announced that it would establish programs to encourage the use of cameras on police uniforms, a topic that is being discussed by the ministry since February. The federal initiative is positive and must be accompanied by a guarantee of transparency and effective social control, through the participation of civil society organizations, and external control, through the Public Prosecutor’s Office, with regard to the use of the images.

We would like to see transparency, legality and common sense from the authorities, in order to build a fairer nation with fewer episodes of violence.

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