Police in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo shot to death more than 11,000 suspects since 2003, and "frequently" carry out extrajudicial executions that only add to Brazil's spiral of violence, Human Rights Watch reported Tuesday.
"Each year, the police in Rio and Sao Paulo kill more than 1,000 people in alleged armed confrontations" the report said. "While some of these police killings for 'resistance' are legitimate acts of self-defense . . . many are extrajudicial executions."
HRW's report came amid concerns over the high crime rate in Brazil, which will host soccer's World Cup in 2014 and the 2016 Olympic Games. A massive Rio police raid in October into poor neighborhoods largely run by drug traffickers left several dead, including three security agents whose helicopter was shot down.
The 122-page HRW report said independent forensic reviews of 51 cases of police killings showed at least 33 of them involved the lethal use of force without justification, and 17 of those showed police had shot the suspects at point-blank range.
"The 51 cases do not represent the total of potential extrajudicial killings, but are an indicator of a broader problem," said the report, titled Lethal Force: Police Violence and Public Security in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.
The report noted that the 11,000 people shot dead by police in Rio and Sao Paulo was high by any standards. The 2,176 police killings in Sao Paulo, a city of 11 million people, were much higher than the 1,623 reported during the same period in South Africa, a country with a high crime rate.
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