A resolution by the São Paulo government on the handling of shooting victims is an important step to safeguard against unlawful killings by state police, Human Rights Watch said today.
Resolution SSP-05 was issued by Secretary of Public Security Fernando Grella Vieira on January 8, 2013. It requires the police to contact emergency response teams to provide assistance and treatment to victims at the scenes of shootings, and prohibits them from removing the victims from the scene.
“The legitimate efforts by São Paulo police to contain violent crime have too often been undermined by fellow police who themselves engage in unlawful killings,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “The new rule will make it harder for these officers to cover up their crimes by pretending to rescue their victims before forensic investigators arrive.”
In a 2009 report, “Lethal Force: Police Violence and Public Security in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo,” Human Rights Watch documented how police officers misreported executions as “resistance killings,” saying that the victims were killed in “shootouts” after they resisted arrest, and destroyed crime-scene evidence to hinder forensic analysis. One common cover-up technique was to remove a shooting victim’s corpse from the crime scene, deliver it to a hospital, and claim that the removal was in fact a “rescue” attempt.
Fake rescues remain a serious problem, according to local justice officials in São Paulo and research conducted by Human Rights Watch. For example, on July 1, 2012, César Dias de Oliveira and Ricardo Tavares da Silva were fatally shot by police officers in Rio Pequeno. The officers took Oliveira and Silva to the Municipal Hospital of Antônio Giglio and reported two resistance killings following a “shootout.”
However, witnesses testified that there had been no shootout and that police had forced Oliveira – wounded in the leg and pleading for his life – into their vehicle. When Oliveira arrived at the hospital, he had been shot twice in the chest, according to his autopsy report.
The São Paulo government’s new policy also requires military police to secure the scenes of shootings and immediately notify civil police authorities. In addition, the resolution compels forensic specialists to go to the scenes of shootings immediately and abolishes the current practice of classifying homicides committed by police as “resistance” killings.