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Last Updated: Monday, 6 October, 2003, 11:45 GMT 12:45 UK
Brazil death squads denounced
Police at a demonstration in Belem
Off duty police officers are blamed for many killings
A United Nations envoy investigating extra-judicial killings by Brazilian police has given a damning account of her findings so far.

The envoy, Asma Jahangir, said that the state of human rights in Brazil could not be compared with other countries.

"In Congo there's a war," she said. "Brazil is a democracy. But what I see here is a wretched, sad situation where there is no justice."

Mrs Jahangir was speaking to reporters in Rio de Janeiro after visiting two shanty-towns, known as favelas, where she heard testimonies from about 20 mothers and other relatives of people said to have died at the hands of the police.

She arrived in Brazil on 16 September for a three-week investigation into summary executions and other killings allegedly carried out by police.


Human rights groups in Brazil say many killings are carried out by death squads made up of police officers and vigilantes.

Unofficial figures compiled by these groups indicate that in 1999, almost 14,000 people were killed by police or death squads.

The police cannot fight crime by committing crime
UN envoy Asma Jahangir
Some of these deaths happened in gun battles between police and criminals, but many of those killed were suspects, innocent bystanders, witnesses or petty crooks.

Human rights campaigners say that even when there is an inquiry into such deaths, very few suspected killers are ever brought to trial.


On Sunday, Mrs Jahangir spent four hours in the favelas of Borel and Jacarezinho.

She said that the government of President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva had made efforts to end police impunity and reduce violence, but that profound changes were needed.

She said: "The police cannot fight crime by committing crime."

During her investigation, Mrs Jahangir has visited five Brazilian states and the capital, Brasilia.

She returns to the UN in Geneva on Wednesday to write her report, which is expected to take three to six months.

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