Brazil Police Dismiss UN Criticism and Say Their Action Curbs Murders

Rio police armored vehicle, Caveirão The Secretariat of Public Security from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in response to criticism raised by a United Nations special report on that city's police human rights abuses, released a note saying that it will carry on its policy to fight drug trafficking in that state, despite the bad press.

The note is a direct reply to Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, who, after spending one week interviewing people in Brazil criticized what he saw as extreme violence by Rio's police force. Alston investigated police violence at the invitation of Brazil's government.

Rio's Security Secretariat argues that all they have been doing is to operate in an active way, with intelligence and planning. This action, they say, has brought positive visible results to the population, with reduction of murders. According to their numbers, there were 700 fewer murders in the first ten months of the year when compared to the same period in 2006.

"Confrontations are undesirable," says the Secretariat's note, "but in the name of human and collective rights we cannot ignore our obligation" when fighting traffickers handling war weapons.

The UN rapporteur, among other things, criticized the use by the police of an armored vehicle nicknamed Caveirão (Big Skull) and the killing of 19 people during a police operation in the Complexo do Alemão favela (shantytown), last June.
 
The UN investigator reported that police in Brazil frequently kill criminal suspects without trial in the name of cracking down on crime and routinely report that suspects were killed for resisting arrest.

These killings should be investigated as a potential murder, however, state Alston.

According to him, the Rio police killed 694 people during the first six months of this year. Most of the killings, he believes, can be considered extrajudicial executions.

Alston would also like to see better protection for witnesses, among other reforms, he is proposing. The rapporteur intends to file a final report on his probe in March 2008.

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