Supreme Court orders Rio de Janeiro government to explain increase in killings by police

In response to a petition by NGOs and social movements, Justice Fachin gives the state government five days to provide justifications for staging police actions during the pandemic

Supreme Court Justice Edson Fachin on Thursday, November 26, gave the state government of Rio de Janeiro a period of five days to explain the reasons for ignoring a court order to suspend police operations for the duration of the health emergency caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

In his order, Fachin has requested the justifications presented by the state government to the Public Prosecutor’s Office for carrying out at least nine police operations that resulted in 18 people killed and four injured. The Public Prosecutor’s Office was also instructed to report on the investigations conducted to date on the deaths resulting from the police intervention.

The order was given in response to a complaint filed to the Supreme Court on November 6 by civil society organizations, social movements from the state’s favelas, mothers of victims of police violence and the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB). In the complaint, the organizations asked that the interim governor of Rio de Janeiro, Claudio Castro, and the State Military Police and Civil Police be required to explain the police actions that occurred during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Read the petition to the Supreme Court from society civil in full

According to a study conducted by the Rio de Janeiro State Public Defender’s Office and civil society groups, between the months of August and October there were police operations in Morro dos Macacos, Morro da Coroa, Jacarezinho, Manguinhos, Lins de Vasconcelos and the Maré favela complex, all in the city of Rio de Janeiro, and also outside the state capital in Viradouro (Niterói), KM 32 (Nova Iguaçu) and Mangueirinha (Duque de Caxias).

The request was submitted to the Supreme Court following a police operation in the Maré complex, on October 27, in which a four-month pregnant woman lost her baby after being shot. According to an inquiry conducted by the NGO Redes da Maré based on the reports of neighbors, there was no confrontation when the young woman was shot. She was standing at the door to her house and was rescued by the local residents. Redes da Maré claims that the police officers responsible for the shooting picked up the cartridges and cleaned the bloodstains, in non-compliance with the Supreme Court’s order requiring the preservation of crime scenes.

Since June, after the ruling by Justice Fachin that was ratified in August by a full session of the Supreme Court, police operations have been suspended for the duration of the Covid-19 pandemic, except in absolutely exceptional cases that must be properly justified in writing by the competent authority and notified immediately to the Public Prosecutor’s Office of the state of Rio de Janeiro.

“The increase in police operations illustrates the widespread non-compliance with the rulings of the Supreme Court, which poses a risk to the important achievements that have saved hundreds of lives over the last few months,” said the organizations in the petition to the court. “We intend to show this court the severity of the explicit escalation in armed confrontation, with immeasurable consequences for the black population that is disproportionately exposed to state violence,” continued the petition.

Escalation of police violence

According to information from ISP (Public Security Institute) in Rio de Janeiro, the number of people killed by police officers in October was the second highest for the month since records began 23 years ago. A total of 145 people died in the month.

The increase in killings by the police was mirrored by an increase in the number of police operations. A report by GENI/UFF (Study Group of New Illegalisms of the Fluminense Federal University) identified the increase in the number of police operations in October in the metropolitan region of Rio de Janeiro – there were 38 operations in October compared to 19 in September.

The increase in killings by the police was accompanied by an increase in other indicators of violence, which also reversed the downward trend seen in previous months. According to the report by GENI/UFF, based on ISP data, between the months of September and October, crimes against life increased by 55% in metropolitan Rio de Janeiro, with a notable increase of 20% in premeditated murders. Property crimes registered an increase of 9%.

Unprecedented case in the Supreme Court

Known as the “Favelas Case”, the ADPF (Allegation of Violation of a Fundamental Precept) No. 635, is a lawsuit proposed 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, IDMJR, Coletivo Papo Reto, Coletivo Fala Akari, Rede de Comunidades and Movimento contra a Violência, Mães de Manguinhos, all of which have been recognized as amici curiae in the case.

The Favelas Case calls for the gross violations caused by the public security policy of the state of Rio de Janeiro against the black and poor population of the urban outskirts and favelas to be recognized and remedied.

Find out more

Receive Conectas updates by email