Brazil violence: Rio police accused by residents of abuses in raid

Author : sarah
Publish Date : 2021-05-07 18:22:41

Brazil violence: Rio police accused by residents of abuses in raid

The United Nations human rights office has strongly criticised a police raid against suspected drug traffickers in Rio de Janeiro, amid allegations of abuse and extrajudicial executions.

The deadliest police operation in the city's history has left 25 dead, including a police officer.

Residents say police killed suspects who wanted to surrender and entered homes without a warrant.

Police have denied any wrongdoing, saying officers acted in self-defence.

Rio de Janeiro is one of Brazil's most violent cities, and vast areas are under the control of criminals, many of them linked to powerful drug-trafficking gangs. Security forces are often accused of disproportionate force during their anti-crime operations.

A 'policy of massacre' in Rio's favelas?
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Thursday's raid in Jacarezinho, one of the city's largest slums known as favelas, was carried out by about 200 police officers and included an armoured helicopter with a sniper. The area is dominated by Comando Vermelho, or Red Command, one of Brazil's largest criminal organisations.

A television helicopter filmed heavily armed suspects jumping from rooftops, while desperate residents posted videos on social media showing intense shootouts as they claimed police had invaded their houses and used excessive violence."There are boys who have been cornered in the house and want to surrender," one resident said, referring to the suspects. "And the police want to kill them. They have even killed some in front of us."

In another video, a resident filmed a police officer standing next to a house and said: "They're cornering [the suspects]. They don't want to let the boys surrender."

'Lots of pools of blood'
Public defender Maria Júlia Miranda said residents told her a suspect was killed in the bedroom of an eight-year-old girl where there were blood stains on the floor and on her bed, and that the family had witnessed the alleged execution.

Ms Miranda said she was "shocked" by seeing "lots of pools of blood... and walls with bullet marks" when visiting the favela. There was also evidence that the scenes of the killings were not preserved, she said, with bodies being removed. "On these cases," she added, "there was probably an execution."Human rights groups, including Amnesty International, said they had also received reports and images from residents saying that their houses had been invaded, and that the police had killed people when they already offered no risk.

"It's completely unacceptable," Jurema Werneck, executive director of Amnesty International Brazil, said in a statement. "Even if the victims were suspected of criminal association, which has not been proven, summary executions of this kind are entirely unjustifiable."

The level of violence caused shock even in Rio, which for decades has been plagued by high levels of crime and police brutality. Between January and March, 404 people were killed in police operations in the city's metropolitan area, according to official figures.

Almost all raids happen in communities where residents are mostly black and poor, and some of the victims are not even suspects. Critics say the operations are often badly planned and frequently end in bloodshed while allegations of misconduct by officers are rarely investigated, with impunity virtually the norm.

"This kind of operation doesn't dismantle criminal groups, it only causes pain and distrust," the Igarapé Institute, a Rio-based think tank, said in a statement. "The social impact of this case is still unknown but will certainly last for years."Amid widespread condemnation, the United Nations human rights office called for an independent investigation, describing it as a "long-standing trend of unnecessary and disproportionate" police operations.

"You have the institutions which control these operations... So, it appears that collectively, they are not succeeding in stopping these kinds of really disturbing, over-the-top, lethal operations. So something is clearly wrong there," spokesman Rupert Colville said in Geneva.

The officer killed was named as 48-year-old Inspector André Leonardo de Mello Frias, who was shot in the head while trying to remove a barricade set up by the criminals. Police have not yet identified the suspects killed but said six other people were arrested.

Deputy Police Chief Rodrigo Oliveira defended the police's actions, saying that officers acted within the law. "The only execution that took place was that of the police officer," he said at a news conference where police displayed an arsenal of weapons that had been seized, including six assault rifles and a submachine gun.Police say they launched the operation to serve 21 arrest warrants as part of a year-long investigation that suggested gangs were recruiting children, among other crimes. Experts again questioned the force used given that minors are used by criminals across the city.

"This is cruel, barbaric," Joel Luiz Costa, a lawyer from Jacarezinho, said in a video posted on Twitter. "Twenty-five people or more were killed. Did it end drug trafficking? Will this end drug trafficking?"

The raid happened despite a court ruling last June that restricted police action in poor areas of Rio during the pandemic unless it was deemed essential. The Rio state public prosecutor's office said it would launch an investigation while the police said they would also open an inquiry.

Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, a former army captain, has not commented. He supports changes in legislation that would protect officers from prosecution if they kill suspects, and has previously said that "a good criminal is a dead criminal".

Read More : Sinopharm: Chinese Covid vaccine gets WHO emergency approval

The World Health Organization (WHO) has granted emergency approval for the Covid vaccine made by Chinese company Sinopharm.

It is the first vaccine developed by a non-Western country to get WHO backing.

The vaccine has already been given to millions of people in China and elsewhere.

The WHO had previously only approved the vaccines made by Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna.

But individual health regulators in various countries - especially poorer ones in Africa, Latin America and Asia - have approved Chinese jabs for emergency use.

With little data released internationally early on, the effectiveness of the various Chinese vaccines has long been uncertain.

But the WHO on Friday said it had validated the "safety, efficacy and quality" of the Sinopharm jab.

The WHO said the addition of the vaccine had "the potential to rapidly accelerate Covid-19 vaccine access for countries seeking to protect health workers and populations at risk".

It is recommending that the vaccine be administered in two doses to those aged 18 and over.

A decision is expected within days on another Chinese vaccine developed by Sinovac, while Russia's Sputnik vaccine is under assessment.

Why does WHO backing matter?
The green light from the global health body is a guideline for national regulators that a vaccine is safe and effective.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it would give countries "confidence to expedite their own regulatory approval".

It also means that the vaccine can be used in the global Covax programme, which aims to provide about two billion vaccines to developing countries.

The decision to list the Chinese vaccine for emergency use is expected to give a substantial boost to the scheme, which has been hit by supply problems and only been able to deliver about 50 million doses so far.

How many people have been vaccinated so far?
Indians' desperate wait for Covid jab to get longer
Prior to the WHO approval, the Sinopharm vaccine was already being widely used, with an estimated 65 million doses administered, according to reports.

In addition to China, countries using the vaccine include the UAE, Pakistan and Hungary.

The vaccine's developer, Beijing Biological Products Institute, has not released any detailed data about its efficacy, but has said the jab is 79.34% effective in preventing people from developing the disease, based on interim data, according to Reuters news agency

The decision to approve the vaccine for emergency use was made by the WHO's technical advisory group, which reviewed its latest clinical data and manufacturing practices.

Doses of another Chinese vaccine made by Sinovac have also already been shipped to a number of countries, which have permitted its emergency usage.

Category : news

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