Brasil.- HRW accuses Brazilian Police of abuses against indigenous people during security operation


The NGO Human Rights Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused the Brazilian Federal Police of committing a wide range of abuses against the indigenous population during an operation that began in early August in response to the attack on a senior Brazilian government official.

The Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office received allegations of alleged murders of indigenous people by the Military Police of the State of Amazonas in the context of the police operation in Nova Olinda do Norte, in the Amazon region of Brazil, which started on August 4.

Prosecutors also received credible evidence of other abuses, including warrantless entry into homes, death threats and a case of torture.

“The Federal Police must immediately send agents to investigate serious allegations of abuse in the Amazon region,” said Maria Laura Canineu, director of Human Rights Watch for Brazil.

The facts that led to the police operation began on July 23, when two private fishing boats docked on the Abacaxis River, in Nova Olinda do Norte, in Amazonas.

One of the boats, called ‘Arafat’, carried the Secretary of Social Development of the State of Amazonas, Saulo Moyses Rezende da Costa. Although the ship has no navigation license, according to the residents, the ‘Arafat’ went on to the Terra Preta community.

There, someone shot the ship, wounding Costa slightly. Authorities believe those responsible for the attack were drug traffickers who operated outside the community.

On August 3, “Arafat” and two other private boats returned to the Abacaxis River, with about 10 disguised state military police officers, to find out who shot Costa, the Federal Public Ministry said. In Terra Preta there was a shootout and, according to the state public security secretariat, two police officers were killed and two others were injured.

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The ensuing police operation, which began a day later with the presence of about 50 uniformed policemen, resulted in abuses denounced by the Munduruku Indians.

One of its representatives informed the Federal Public Ministry that two brothers from the Coatá-Laranjal Indigenous Land disappeared on August 5, when they were descending the Abacaxis River by canoe to Nova Olinda do Norte, according to documentation and audio recorded messages reviewed by Human Rights Watch .

Indigenous leaders said the police shot the brothers from a boat without provocation. The body of one of them was found floating in the river on 6 August.

Federal prosecutors said they had received unconfirmed reports that the state police killed five other people in Nova Olinda do Norte.

The Amazonas State Secretariat confirmed only one death, of a man who allegedly opened fire on the agents.

“The murder and injuries of police officers must be thoroughly investigated, but this investigation must never terrorize local communities and violate their rights,” said Canineu.

“The Military Police must respect the law, not violate it and, if they do, they must be held responsible,” he added.

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