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In 2007 my family was cruelly introduced to a little known human rights catastrophe occurring in Brazil. That year my nephew, Joseph Martin of Worcester, Massachusetts, was murdered on his 30th birthday by a police officer in Rio de Janeiro. Joseph, who was working as an English teacher at the time, tried to intervene when he saw a Rio police officer threatening a youngster on the street. For that, he was shot. After a shoddy investigation, complete with signs of evidence tampering, Joseph’s killer managed to escape justice.

Through tremendous shock and pain, my family struggled at first to understand what happened in Joseph’s case, and why. My father was a policeman his entire career so we did not grow up believing the police were killers. The answers we found when looking at Brazil’s police were disturbing. Brazil’s police forces are among the most violent in the world. According to the government’s own statistics, Joseph was one of an astonishing 1,330 people killed by police in Rio alone in 2007. After Joseph’s murder, we discovered he was caught in a storm of police brutality that takes many lives on a daily basis in Brazil. Joseph’s case was only exceptional because he was a white foreigner killed in a touristy part of Rio. The vast majority of targets of police brutality in Brazil are poor black youths who reside in slum communities known as favelas. This profound injustice visited upon my family and countless more in Brazil and led me, Joseph’s aunt, to found Brazil Police Watch.

Please stand with us in an international campaign urging immediate police reform in Brazil and consider signing our petition below. Thank you.

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Full text of the Petition

As the world turns its eyes to Brazil when it hosts the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Rio Olympics, we, the undersigned, demand immediate police reform in Brazil. In order for the citizens of Brazil, foreign residents, international visitors and athletes to be safe up to, during and after the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, major reforms must occur in the Brazilian police departments – reforms that do not encourage more killings, but rather improve public security.

We request that the Fédération Internationale de Football Association and the International Olympic Committee work with the government of Brazil to ensure that citizens of Brazil, as well as participants and spectators, are safe from police violence up to and during the World Cup and Olympics. We ask that FIFA and the IOC demand that the Brazilian government implement the recommendations and projects outlined below to reduce the high rate of police killings committed in the name of our safety.

To the sponsors and partners of these events, since it is true that money talks then let it speak clearly. Demand that the Brazilian government implement these changes, lest your organization, products and services be affiliated with a government that murders its citizens.

  1. We ask that FIFA and the IOC include recommended police changes put forth by the United Nations, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International in their commitment from Brazil.
  2. All police in all World Cup venues must receive new training in low-lethal defensive policing techniques such as the Giraldi Method.
  3. Move towards concrete, actionable, and quantifiable measures to de-militarize the police. This will be accomplished by: first, terminate the military police. Second, introduce the language of human rights to all related institutions to end the criminalization of the general population.
  4. “End the use of the designation ‘resistance followed by death’” for victims of police interventions, to be replaced by a register of cases of police lethality.” (AI p.75) Identifying a death as intentional homicide and not “resistance”, avoids the presumption of self-defense in cases of killings by police officers. Officers who are involved in lethal shootings must be removed immediately from street duties until the shootings are fully investigated and they have undergone psychological evaluation.
  5. “In each State, the State Secretariat for Public Security should establish a reliable specialized unit to investigate and prosecute police involvement in militias and extermination groups.” (UN p.18)  We recommend the following: prohibition of second jobs of police officers in private security services, prohibition of police officers owning, being shareholders, consulting or having any connection with security companies; stronger control of the police activity outside the public ministry and through other institutions not linked to the police structure; urgent action on all sources of funds and political-economic factors that can be controlled by militia officers.
  6. We demand an end to the raids on the favelas. The continuing war-like strategy of raiding and occupying the favelas was denounced by the United Nations in 2009 as “murderous and self-defeating”. (UN1 p. 13) This same strategy utilized before the 2007 Pan American games left dozens dead over several months including 19 dead in one day. (UN1 p. 16) The current public security policy to prepare for the World Cup and Olympics by killing citizens in the name of public safety is a grotesque strategy that must end. Even the seemingly less violent units of the new Pacification Police of Rio de Janeiro need civilian oversight mechanisms so they do not constitute a new militarized force controlling the favelas.

Silence on this matter is not a neutral act. Brazilians, spectators and athletes are all at risk; it is a moral imperative to speak to this issue and act. Because the Brazilian police demonstrate a long history of “shoot first”, we are all at risk. Please ensure that the World Cup and the Olympics are a safe venue for all who want to share in their love of the game. Thank you for your attention to this request. We look forward to safe international sporting events that guarantee safety for all.

(UN1) Report of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Philip Alston, Human Rights Council, A/HRC/11/2/Add.2 (advanced unedited version)

Report of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Philip Alston, Follow-up to country recommendations – Brazil 28 May 2010

(HRW)  “Lethal Force; Police Violence and Public Security in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo” 2009 Human Rights Watch

(AI)  “They come in shooting: Policing socially excluded communities” Brazil Amnesty International report 2005

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The world’s problem. Brazil’s opportunity.
End police brutality in Brazil!

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