The issue of police brutality in the spotlight for the upcoming Rio Olympic Games

NEWS - Amnesty International has denounced in its latest report the rise of police violence in Rio, as all eyes are set on the city for the upcoming Olympic Games.  

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The persisting issue of police violence in the spotlight with the upcoming Games
Human rights violations occurring because of the upcoming Olympic Games have been already denounced by many NGOs and associations. In order to maintain a positive media coverage, and aware that the Games are going to focus all international community’s attention on their surroundings, Rio has been “clearing” some spaces by forcibly removing populations, as it was shown in our last Cipadh article on the subject.
Terre des Hommes and the association “Comite Popular” have already denounced these types of removals – but a recent communiqué from Amnesty International has also been pointing out the issue of police brutality. Brazilian authorities have called up 7.000 reinforcement soldiers, who are mainly used as military forces to “clean up” favelas and similar depressed areas.


Amnesty International has gathered up information on these forced displacements and violence by setting in place their “cross-fire” application for smartphone, in which the Brazilian population can have access to all shootings, with precisions on the area, the date, the hour, the number of policemen and casualties involved. Geneviève Carrigos, the spokeswoman of Amnesty International France, has recently declared in an interview that more than 700 shootings had been registered by the app in the last few months – which would represent more than twenty shootings per day, and a dozen of them being done by police and military forces.


 In Rio, police brutality is a persisting issue. In 2003, according to figures gathered by Global Justice, nearly 1,200 people had been killed in the state of Rio – for 45 policemen. According to Human Rights Watch, police violence makes over 3,000 deaths per year in Brazil. In a report for the year of 2007, the United Nations pointed out that police clashes had made 1,300 casualties in the state of Rio.
However, hosting the Olympic Games has definitely worsened an already existing problem: in 2014, police operations ending up with killings has been up to 40% compared to previous years, a figure which has once again jumped up by 11% in 2015, with 645 people killed, as Amnesty International has notified.


Police violence is only getting worse: if 20 deaths by military forces have been reported in May 2015 in Rio, the figure has doubled the same month of this year, ending up with 40 victims.
 
The government's response to the accusations
Brazilian authorities are justifying their methods as being a necessary, albeit violent, response to the ongoing criminality in Rio, especially in slum areas, many of them being controlled by heavily armed criminals such as drug traffickers.  
Nevertheless, the authorities have reacted to the accusations by setting up some measures, like decreasing the use of rifles and giving more thorough trainings on operations to military. Thousands of policemen have also been suspended since 2007 for “excessive use of force”.


However, these measures remain minimal, when taking into account the high toll of deaths that are the results of police operations and the little number of policemen actually prosecuted for “excessive use of force”.
As all eyes are currently set on Brazil and the Rio Olympic Games are starting tomorrow, it remains to be seen if the pressure of NGOs and the international community will be enough to persuade authorities to limit the force use of their police and military – or if it will, on the contrary, lead them to respond even more violently to what they’d rather not show to the rest of the world.

 

Léa Guinet, Coordinator at CIPADH

Sources:
Viviane Le Guen, « JO: Amnesty International dénonce les violences policières à Rio », France Info, 3 août 2016. Available at : http://www.franceinfo.fr/fil-info/article/jo-amnesty-international-denonce-les-violences-policieres-rio-809701
Amnesty International, “La face obscure des jeux olympiques de Rio », 2016. Available at :  https://www.amnesty.org/fr/latest/campaigns/2016/06/deadly-side-rio-olympics-2016/
Josefina Salomon, “Combattre l’injustice avec son smartphone dans le Rio des JO », Amnesty International, 27 juillet 2016. Available at : https://www.amnesty.org/fr/latest/news/2016/07/fighting-injustice-with-smartphones-in-olympic-rio/

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