Supreme Court resumes judgment of ADPF Favelas Case

Mothers of May Movement, which focuses on combating police violence, joins the case as an amicus curiae; new phase of the judgment starts on Wednesday, December 15

Débora Maria da Silva, co-fundadora do Mães de Maio. Foto: Conectas Débora Maria da Silva, co-fundadora do Mães de Maio. Foto: Conectas

The Supreme Court will resume its judgment this Wednesday, December 15, of an appeal submitted by the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB) and by NGOs and social movements engaged in ADPF Case No. 635, better known as the ADPF Favelas Case.

The case, which has been suspended since May following an adjournment requested by Justice Alexandre de Moraes, was put back on the agenda of the Supreme Court in recent weeks, but has not yet been heard by the justices on account of changes made to the schedule of the Court.

The judgment will be resumed with the participation of the Independent Mothers of May Movement, whose request for amicus curiae status was accepted by Justice Edson Fachin, the rapporteur of the case, on Thursday, December 9.

The movement was founded in 2006 shortly after the so-called Crimes of May in São Paulo, when hundreds of people were killed by public security agents and death squads in “response” to a series of prison riots coordinated by a criminal gang.

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Active now for 15 years, the Mothers of May Movement is recognized nationally and internationally and consists of activists, researchers and other actors from civil society to combat police violence, especially violence against the black population from the urban outskirts, and to fight for justice and reparations for the violence of the crimes committed by the State.

In addition to the Mothers of May, other movements are also involved in the ADPF Favelas Case, including: IDPN (Institute for the Defense of the Black Population), Mothers of Manguinhos and the Coletivo Papo Reto group.

Reduction of police lethality

In the judgment, the organizations are asking the state government of Rio de Janeiro to prepare a plan to reduce police lethality. The appeal filed by the organizations challenges the precautionary measures approved by the Court in August 2020.

At the time, the Court imposed some important measures, such as banning the police from firing guns from helicopters, restricting police operations around schools and hospitals, preserving crime scenes and not removing bodies from the scene for forensic purposes. However, the justices did not reach a majority decision on requiring the state of Rio de Janeiro to develop a plan to reduce police lethality and to control rights violations by the state’s security forces.

According to a recent study from the Crossfire Institute – which has been monitoring gun violence in the city of Rio de Janeiro since 2016 – following the Supreme Court ruling, there was a decline of approximately 38% in shootings in the metropolitan region of the state capital. The data also show that, since the ADPF Case 635 measures were implemented, the number of deaths in police operations has fallen 35% (769) and the number of injuries has fallen 33% (912) compared to the period of one year and five months before the measures, when 1,178 people were killed and 1,353 were injured.

Definition of exceptionality

In the same case, the organizations are also asking the Supreme Court to restrict the concept of “exceptionality” for conducting police operations. In the first injunction in the ADPF Favelas Case, in June 2020, Justice Fachin determined that new police operations could only occur “in absolutely exceptional cases that are properly justified in writing by the competent authority and notified immediately to the Public Prosecutor’s Office”.

“The state of Rio de Janeiro has been attempting to broaden the concept of exceptionality to justify violent actions that bring terror to residents of the favelas and urban outskirts, such as the one that caused the death of 29 people in Jacarezinho,” said Shyrlei Rosendo, of Redes da Maré, one of the organizations that undersigned the appeal in the Supreme Court. “In our request, we want the Supreme Court to define this concept so the authorities in Rio de Janeiro can be held accountable for their blatant non-compliance with the ban on police operations during the pandemic,” she said.

According to a technical report produced by researchers from GENI (Study Group of New Illegalisms), of the Fluminense Federal University, police operations should be limited to situations in which life is in clear and present danger, such as armed conflicts between gangs or kidnappings taking place inside the communities.

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