Death Squad Threatens Lawyers in Brazil

    Two lawyers and an NGO leader in Brazil have suffered death threats and intimidation  which appear to be linked to their work to bring two alleged “death squad”  members to justice. Amnesty International believes their lives are in danger.

    Isabel Peres is the Coordinator of the Brazilian branch of the NGO ACAT  (Christian Association for the Abolition of Torture). Together with lawyers  Francisco Lúcio França and José de Jesus Filho, she has been involved in the  prosecution of two police officers, who are accused of the murder of two  youths.


    The trial took place in Mongaguá municipality, on the southern coast of  São Paulo state, from 21-23 March. At the end of the first day of the trial,  two cars followed Francisco Lúcio França and José de Jesus Filho to the place  where they were staying. On March 26, another car followed Isabel Peres to the  place where she was staying.


    On March 25, Francisco Lúcio França was out with two friends in a shopping  center in the center of São Paulo. A man approached him and said he was a  police officer called “Lúcio”, a member of a “grupo de extermí­nio” (death  squad) which “fazia o serviço sujo da Polí­cia” (carried out the dirty work of  the police).


    He told França, “Você pare com o processo, se não você morre!  (You should drop this case, or else you will die!) and went on to say that he  had come to São Paulo to “identificar” (identify) two people.


    It was clear  from what “Lúcio” said that he was talking about the prosecution of the two  police officers, who had been acquitted two days earlier.


    The public  prosecutor’s case has lodged an appeal against the acquittal. Key witnesses to  the murder are now believed to be in particular danger: like the police  officers who are now free, they live in Mongaguá, where the murders took place.


    The police officers are accused of murdering 16-year-old Anderson do Carmo and  20-year-old Celso Gioelli Magalhães Júnior, on September 27, 2002.


    The two young  men were visiting a bar in Mongaguá, when two police officers, who had  threatened them earlier, called to them to get into their police car. They  tried to escape, but the police caught them, and witnesses saw the officers  beat them severely.


    The officers took them away in the car, saying they were  taking them for questioning at the municipal police station. However, their  bodies were found a few days later in a shallow grave.


    A bullet was found in  each body, which were identified as having been fired from the gun of one of  the police officers. Further evidence implicated the second police officer. The  two officers were dismissed from the Military Police and charged with the  killings.


    Across Brazil, “death squads” carry out extrajudicial executions of criminal  suspects, in situations sometimes known as “social cleansing”, and are also  involved in organized crime: among them are serving and former police officers. 


    There have been some successful crackdowns on “death squad” activity, notably  in the state of Bahia. However, at least 30 people were killed in Rio’s Baixada  Fluminense district on 31 March in two hours of indiscriminate shooting by  “death squad” members, believed to include military police officers.


    The attack  is believed to have been a response to a crackdown on “death squads” and  corruption within Rio’s Military Police force.


    Amnesty International 
    www.amnesty.org

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