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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 August, 2003, 23:03 GMT 00:03 UK
Rio police killings condemned

By Jan Rocha
BBC Sao Paulo correspondent

In a damning report issued to mark the 10th anniversary of two massacres of civilians by police in Rio de Janeiro, which sparked worldwide condemnation, Amnesty International says that little has changed in the city.

In the first six months of 2003, 621 civilians were killed by the city's police, the report says.

Vigario Geral massacre victims
The massacres in 1993 were carried out by military police
The two massacres in 1993 horrified world opinion. In the first, in July, eight street children and young adults were shot dead as they slept on the steps of the Candelaria church.

In the other, just a month later, 21 residents of a Rio shanty town known as Vigario Geral, were murdered.

In both cases the killers belonged to the military police force.

Ten years on, only two of the 50 policemen accused in the shanty town shooting are in prison and none of the families have received full compensation.

Green light for murder

Amnesty International says they have found consistent evidence that the context in which these killings took place has not changed.

In the first six months of this year alone, police in Rio killed over 600 unarmed civilians.

According to the human rights organisation, politicians in the city have repeatedly made public statements which support police killing as a necessary part of crime control, thus giving a green light to kill.

Almost all these killings take place in favelas, or shanty towns, and according to the police version, happen during shoot-outs, with the victims usually being described as drug-traffickers.

But for Amnesty International, to be poor in Rio de Janeiro still means to be trapped in a cycle of violence, subject to violent, repressive and often corrupt policing.

Such communities, says the report, are not only excluded from access to fundamental economic and social rights, but from the right to live in peace.

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