HRW commends Brazilian bid to curb police killings

Human Rights Watch on Thursday praised a resolution by Brazil's Human Rights Defense Council that outlined steps to help reduce extrajudicial killings by police.

In a statement, the New York-based rights advocacy group said Brazilian police routinely "engage in unlawful violence, executing people and falsely claiming they died in shootouts." In a 2009 report, the organization estimated some 11,000 people were killed by police between 2003-2009 in the country's two largest metropolises, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, alone. A 2008 United Nations report found that that police throughout Brazil were responsible for a "significant portion" of 48,000 slayings the year before.

In a bid to curb such killings, Brazil's Human Right Defense Council on Wednesday released a resolution outlining steps to be taken in killings in which police allege the victim resisted arrest. Those steps include such seemingly basic tasks as promptly analyzing the crime scene and collecting witnesses' statements. Analyzing autopsy reports, as well as any weapons or vehicles involved in the incident, are also among the recommended steps.

Human Rights Watch's Americas Director, Jose Vivanco, was quoted as calling Wednesday's resolution "encouraging."

"By complying with the resolution, states could make real progress in reigning in police abuse," Vivanco said.

The problem of resistance killings was brought into sharp focus last year, when the shooting death of an 11-year-old boy made headlines nationwide. On June 20, 2011, Juan Moraes left his home in a Rio favela, or hillside slum, to run an errand for his mother and was hit by police fire. His body was found three days later, dumped in a river near police headquarters, 11 miles (18 kilometers) from where he was shot. Investigators didn't visit the scene until a week after the boy's death.

"The Juan Moraes case is not an isolated incident," Human Rights Watch said in its statement.

Brazil's Human Rights Defense Council is an organ of the federal government charged with investigating claims of massacres, executions and other human rights violations.