By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – A report released on Thursday morning by Human Rights Watch (HRW) calls on Brazilian authorities to do more to halt police brutality, reject a constitutional amendment which would try and punish minors as adults and address violence and discrimination against the country’s indigenous people.
“Brazilian police desperately need community cooperation to fight the high levels of crime that plague the country,” stated Brazil’s Human Rights Watch director, Maria Laura Canineu, adding, “But as long as some police officers beat and execute people with impunity, communities will not trust the police.”
The report, which analyses human rights practices in over ninety countries around the world, said that the Brazilian Congress made matters worse in the case of police brutality by approving, in October of 2017, a bill that protects armed forces agents accused of unlawful killings of civilians from being prosecuted in civilian courts. The cases are now to be tried in military courts.
According to the report Brazil continues to register chronic human rights problems, such as prison overcrowding and the ill-treatment of its incarcerated population.
“Many Brazilian prisons and jails are severely overcrowded and violent,” states the report noting that the number of adults behind bars jumped 85 percent from 2004 to 2014, 67 percent more than the current prison system was built to hold.
The report also criticizes a bill passed in the Chamber of Deputies in 2015 and being discussed now in the Senate that would allow 16 and 17- year-olds accused of serious crimes to be tried as adults.
“If enacted, the law would violate international norms enshrined in human rights treaties that Brazil has ratified, which state that people under 18 should not be prosecuted as adults,” argues the international entity.
In relation to Brazil’s large indigenous population, HRW notes that in March 2016, the United Nations special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples found a ‘disturbing’ lack of progress in areas of key concern to indigenous peoples, such as the demarcation of their territories. Similarly to the UN, HRW urged Brazil’s government ‘to address violence and discrimination against indigenous people’.
Data from the Catholic Church’s Land Commission (CPT), shows that from January to October 2017, 64 were killed due to land conflicts, the highest number since 2003.