Death squads rife in Brazil, UN told

Death squads are operating in at least 15 Brazilian states, according to a document passed to the United Nations by the Brazilian Government this week.

The document also confirms that in Rio de Janeiro, the country's second largest city, 95 per cent of death squad-related crimes are never investigated.
The admission comes as a UN team, led by the Commission on Human Rights' Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Asma Jahangir, arrives in Brazil to investigate summary executions in six states, including Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and the Distrito Federal of Brasília.

The envoy will visit the graves of victims, as well as interviewing their families and survivors, between 16 September 16 and 8 October.

“The UN will demand that the Brazilian state acts, and for the first time Brazil will have to admit that this is a national problem which is rotting the police force and letting barbarity take root,” national secretary of human rights Nilmário Miranda, told the Globo newspaper.

Another report due out details 349 executions across 24 Brazilian states.


Summary executions in Brazil - compiled by the São Paulo-based national government organisation (NGO), Justiça Global, and the Núcleo de Estudo Negro (NEN) - focuses on death squads, police violence and deaths in police custody since 1997.

According to Sandra Carvalho, director of research and communication for Justiça Global, few executions are ever investigated by the state.

“The biggest problem is impunity. In some cases there is a delay of up to six years in investigating these cases. In this time, people can be eliminated, as can any evidence,” she said.

The 272-page document was launched simultaneously in São Paulo, Boston and London.

“Internationally known episodes like Eldorado do Carajás, Candelária, Carandiru, Corumbiara, Favela Naval and, most recently, the murder of Chan Kim Chang in Rio de Janeiro, are extreme examples of the extermination and oppression carried out on a daily basis, directly or indirectly, by state police across virtually the entire national territory,” says the report.

“The 349 executions outlined follow this pattern of extermination and guarantied impunity to those who torture, injure and kill”.

According to the NGO, 100 per cent of the dossier involves Brazil’s poor.

The vast majority of victims are young men from deprived inner city and rural areas, it points out.

“This is the criminalisation of poverty. For the inhabitants of the poor areas of our country, happiness means being able to open the window,” the report says.