Reposted with permission from The Pan-American Post
From abusive crackdowns on protests to forced disappearances, police violence in Brazil has been making headlines in recent months. Tomorrow, however, lawmakers in Brazil’s lower house could take an important step in reining in the illegal use of deadly force by law enforcement officers in the country.
While human rights groups have been campaigning for years around the issue, the struggle against police brutality in Brazil has been difficult. Brazilian police remain shielded by a dictatorship-era mechanism that allows them to record deaths as the result of suspects resisting arrest, or “autos de resistência.” Once registered as such, offending officers are benefit from procedural barriers to investigations and a larger institutional culture of impunity.
This has taken a toll on disadvantaged communities in the country. As the Brazilian Public Security Forum (FBSP) noted in its latest annual report, over the past five years police in the country have killed at least 11,197 people, an average of six people per day. This is more than United States police have killed in the last 30 years, despite the U.S. having a population roughly 50 percent larger.
As news site Ponte reports, the new bill would reinforce the responsibility of prosecutors to investigate deaths in police custody, regardless of the official explanation. While security experts consulted by the site concede that the bill won’t end extrajudicial executions altogether, most see it as a positive step that will focus more attention on the issue.
The bill is set to come to a vote tomorrow, December 10, Human Rights Day. According to the lower-house head of Brazil’s Communist Party — one of the primary supporters of the measure — the chamber is expected to pass the measure on to the Senate. Poder Online notes that the all last month, Afro-Brazilian and human rights NGOs carried out lobbying efforts on behalf of the initiative.
In a final push, yesterday a coalition of Brazilian civil society organizations released a joint letter supporting the law and listing ten reasons for its passage. The group –which includes human rights NGO Conectas, Afro-Brazilian rights group Educafro and the São Paulo state ombudsman’s office — point to widespread condemnation of “autos de resistência” from domestic and international human rights offices, as well as the disproportionate impact of police violence on youths of color in poor neighborhoods.
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