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Report says executions commonplace in Brazil
( 2003-09-16 09:31) (Agencies)

Summary executions and extrajudicial killings by police and vigilante groups are commonplace in Brazil, often with the tacit approval of local authorities, human rights groups said on Monday.

The Global Justice Center and Center for Afro-Brazilian Studies -- two prominent Brazil-based rights groups -- said in a report that millions of Brazilians are victims of government-sponsored violence and live in "a state of fear and oppression."

The damning report was released as police investigated the execution-style killing on Friday of eight people deep in the jungles of the northern state of Para in what they said appeared to be a rural land dispute.

Although private guards at a nearby ranch, not official forces, are thought by police to be responsible for the killings, the murders underscored the lawlessness that millions who live in Brazil's vast, rural interior are subject to.

"The killings appear to be the work of hired gunmen, which fits into the pattern of vigilante violence that is so common in rural areas," said Sandra Carvalho, one of the authors of the report, which will be presented this week to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Executions, Asma Jahangir.

Using official figures, the report documents the execution of 335 people in 24 of Brazil's 27 states, dating back to 1997. In 202 of the cases, authorities failed to take action to prosecute the perpetrators of the crimes, it said.

The report also concludes that high-profile massacres like the slaughter of 19 landless peasants in Eldorado dos Carajas in 1996 and the off-duty police killing of eight homeless children in Rio de Janeiro in 1993 are not isolated incidents.

"Instead they are particularly egregious examples of violence practiced or tolerated by state agents," it said.


The report singled out police forces in the states of Rio, Sao Paulo, Espirito Santo and the Federal District of Brasilia as particularly abusive, citing forensic evidence that suggests that officers there frequently shoot with "fatal intent."

"This country simply doesn't have a public security policy," said Fermino Fecchio, a former police ombudsman in Sao Paulo who now advises the federal government on police reform. "If that doesn't change, the police aren't going to change."

Sao Paulo state law enforcement officials did not return calls seeking comment. But just last week, authorities in Rio publicly acknowledged that torture was widespread in the state's police stations and prison system.

The admission followed the beating death of a Chinese man in a Rio jail who had been detained for trying to board a plane to the United States with more than $30,000 in cash.

Amnesty International said in a recent report that the Rio police had killed a record 621 civilians in the city's hillside shantytowns in the first six months of the year.

Like the Global Justice report, London-based Amnesty characterized police behavior in Rio's poor communities as violent, repressive and often corrupt.

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