In This Review

Police Brutality in Urban Brazil
Police Brutality in Urban Brazil
Human Rights Watch, 1997, 118 pp

Rapid urban population growth, soaring crime rates, and public dissatisfaction with the criminal justice system have led the Brazilian public to acquiescence in violent extrajudicial measures against criminals such as police violence and death squads. But earlier this year, a brutal police shakedown in Sao Paulo was captured on videotape in a manner reminiscent of the 1991 beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles and likewise repeatedly played on the evening television news. Extensively documented and focusing on seven of Brazil's cities, this report reveals that police often kill without justification, frequently file false reports describing extrajudicial executions as shootouts, and remove the bodies from the scene of the crime. This report, however, does point to positive changes, especially on the critical matter of police impunity. In particular, it points to President Cardoso's 1996 National Plan for Human Rights that resulted from a collaborative effort of the Ministry of Justice, nongovernmental organizations, and human rights advocates, and notes encouraging efforts to address the problem of police violence in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, and Pernambuco state.