Brazil’s Human Rights Violations

Time and time again throughout our history we have found human rights violations that have occurred in all parts of the world. We have seen human rights abuses ranging from places like Rwanda to Darfur, Afghanistan to Iraq, and Germany to Bosnia. Surprisingly though, another well-known country suffers from human rights violations, one that causes the people of the nation to test their trust in their local neighbors as well as their law enforcement.

This particular problem is one that is still prevalent and on-going today in the country of Brazil. The outbreak of drug gangs in Brazil has caused the killing of many innocent Brazilian’s, but the response from the law enforcement officers is equally as blood-thirsty as the local gangs. The war between the gangs and police officers has caused great human rights violations to the nation.

What we need to know

A substantial threat to the nation of Brazil is the violence against its people from the gangs that are forming in the impoverished favelas. The vicious cycle between the drug business that the gang members are involved in, the weapons they are acquiring from it, and the violent senseless killings of the towns people are wreaking havoc. Local children are joining the gangs for many reasons such as escaping their previous poverty-stricken lives to earning money in the drug business, to simply belonging to these “organizations” for safety and security.

Only these children do not know that the reason for finding safety is the exact reason they are being targeted and many are labeled because of their race. This is an extremely large reason why the country is suffering from unimaginable violence and is also a major cause for the surprising unjust violence of police brutality. The war between the gangs and police have made law enforcement feel that they are the target of the killings or they must kill the enemy first, which takes levels of morality and trust to a whole other level.

We first need to be informed on what exactly is taking place in the favelas the police officers are patrolling, to understand just how badly they are suffering and what is the human right violation. We also need to get to the bottom of why there is police brutality and if the gangs are the sole reason for the rash physical violence the police are acting on.

Senseless violence examples

The need for more police officers in the favela’s can be blamed on the violent gangs terrorizing the communities. The police forces are there to do their duties since there is a prominent role a police officer holds, which is upholding the peace, safety, and law within the community. The rise of officers being put in the favelas actually has counteracted the problem instead of helping the community crack down on violence.

Even though the gangs are an extensive reason for violence the police are as well. There have been 8,000 people killed in Brazil in the past 10 years from police brutality while 645 of them occurred just last year. The Brazilian law enforcement is corrupt; there has been an obvious focus on the killings of young black men whether it is due to stereotyping and associating them with the gangs or because out of plain racism.

Brazil has a population of 75 million ‘Afro Brazilian’ people and the white Brazilian’s claim that their country does not have racism but we seem to think otherwise. Considering the targets of the police killings are to the poor, young, black men and knowing of the past history of Brazil’s discrimination against these people, we could very well say there is a chance this is racism.

On February 6th 2015 in Salvador, Brazil a prominently black city, 30 young black men were forced to stand against a wall with their backs to the police where then a shoot-out took place. This was caused by an apparent bank robbing that the police claimed the men to be involved with (in reality many were innocent bystanders trying to flee).

We often find out the victims are simply trying to flee away from the violence, their backs are turned away or they are surrendering into actions though they have not done them. The shoot-out resulted in 12 lives being taken instead of the accused being brought into police custody. Many more abuses like these incidences have caused us to believe that the prejudice against the Afro-Brazilians are very real. It is often said that they are trying to eliminate the black population essentially causing a genocide.

These killings also have very little documentation on the cases which suggests the police officers are hiding something. That something of course are their abuses towards the people. An abundance of claims made by the police say that the cases of the civilians being shot are due to these “shoot-outs” yet the reports from autopsies disagree. Victims are being shot at point blank range which suggest it is purposely done.

Many senseless killings are blamed on self-defense or they have tried covering up the murders to suggest that another crime was committed. For instance, in the case of 10-year-old Eduardo de Jesus Ferreira, the young boy was killed by police outside of his home for no reason other than they thought he was a young “bandit".

Afterwards, the police tried to cover up what they had done and tried tampering with the crime scene by placing a gun next to his lifeless body while also trying to move him. They were unsuccessful in doing so because Eduardo’s family intervened with what the police were doing. Despite his family fearing for their lives from the officer when he had held a gun up to his mother’s head and told her that he too could kill her as he killed her son, they continued to fight for justice. But again little is in their control when law enforcement and government are trying to hide the ongoing corruption.

The role of the police past and present

The police are abusing their power and knowing they can get away with the crimes they relentlessly keep doing so. The reasoning for the police to do this can also go back to the military dictatorship Brazil was under during 1964 through 1985. The practices of the previous military dictatorship could very well have had influenced the current law enforcement to continue committing human rights violations.

Under Brazil’s military dictatorship, military police were under the rule of the Brazilian army. The military organized mobile units of the police force named the Tobias De Aguiar Patrol Squad (ROTA) which we could have seen in the town of Sao Paulo for example. Their goal was to help eliminate terrorism and get rid of ANY criminals they thought had brought a threat. It was widely accepted that instead of trying these criminals in court, the best way to stop the violence was to simply murder them. After their duties were done, the regular police force continued to kill and the situation has gotten out of control.

The jails which hold the criminals would rather not deal with the problems and feel they are better off dead. Where is the law and order in that? Honest citizens are facing police officers who are creating their own laws that fit their own narrative and one example that was not from the basis of racism was one that happened recently.

This past summer the Olympics were held in Rio de Janeiro and even during this internationally renowned event, abuses were made. Jason Lee, a Jiu-Jitsu New Zealander not actually competing in the competitions but wanting to be closer to Rio, had an experience of his own while in Brazil.

While driving down a road in his rental car he was pulled over by police officers who then told him he had broken the law for driving as a non-citizen without a passport and he would need to pay a $600 dollar fine in order to continue on with his day. This is not an offense in Brazil, no such law exists therefore he was not in any violation. The police did not take no for an answer and patted him down, intentionally groped his genital region, and had abducted Lee, taking him to an ATM machine to withdraw the money to pay for his “crime”; luckily for him they released him after they received the money.

The unlawful acts of abduction, theft, illegal stops, and murders are only a fraction of what we know that goes on in the country. Are the “gang” criminals to blame or is law enforcement to blame? It makes us question who the real criminals in these situations are.

Police are also committing another major human rights violation by allowing themselves to extra judicially kill. Extrajudicial killings are the illegal executions of citizens whom are accused of a crime but may not actually have committed the crime – essentially receiving the death penalty without a fair trial. While not all police officers are the bad guys there are good police out there too.

But the good police officer’s failure to report what is going on is another problem they are facing. We can see the same examples in the Holocaust with the Nazi’s who felt they had to kill the Jews out safety for themselves and their families as well as the same thing that happened in Guatemala with the military armies trying to wipe out the indigenous people although many were indigenous themselves.

Just like in the Holocaust and in Guatemala the “good” law enforcement in Brazil fears to report the crimes committed against the civilians for the fear the officers will retaliate and kill them. Unfortunately, as hard as it may be to hear that they are not stopping the unjust violence, they do not report the incidences because they are worrying about the safety of their own families.

Overall what should and is being done to prevent the violations

Overall, gang violence is a problem in the urban favelas of Brazil, but what is even more alarmingly unjust are the corrupt law enforcement officers who are not protecting and serving their communities as they should. They are instead instilling fear in the communities, the safety of non-criminal Brazilians are being put at a safety risk, and the public service they are offering is no help at all to curbing violence.

The Brazilian police is only furthering damage of crime and violence and the people cannot turn to them. If they cannot turn to them then who shall they turn to? Amnesty International is a non-profit organization who advocates for the protection of human rights. Amnesty international has ordered some sort of action to be made to decrease the homicides made by police (as well as other forces) but the real answer to combatting the problem lies in the governments hands. According to the Brazilian government, they were to present a national plan in defeating the brutality in the country July of 2016 but failed in doing so.

There are not a lot of efforts in trying to conquer the problem although they know it is there. Until they have a solid plan in resolving the corrupt law enforcement then the country will continue to kill one another with no control. The situation will further get worse and it will spiral out of control, first and foremost it starts at the government level to enact perhaps military aide to fight their own police – which is the toughest thing they can do. The government needs to prosecute human rights violations and take it to the highest level they can. It is sad that Brazil has to deal with this issue which hurts ALL people of the nation, they have to wonder who they can trust, so with that we must recognize this quote… “Police institutions are in a tragic situation for society. People have more trust in traffickers than the police.” —General Nilton Cerqueira, Secretary of Public Security (Retiree).