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Brazil: Crime situation, including organized crime; police and state response, including effectiveness; state protection for witnesses and victims of crime (2009-Oct. 2012)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Publication Date 13 November 2012
Citation / Document Symbol BRA104224.E
Related Document Brésil : information sur la criminalité, y compris le crime organisé; les mesures prises par la police et l'État, y compris leur efficacité; la protection offerte par l'État aux témoins et aux victimes d'actes criminels (2009-octobre 2012)
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Brazil: Crime situation, including organized crime; police and state response, including effectiveness; state protection for witnesses and victims of crime (2009-Oct. 2012), 13 November 2012, BRA104224.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/50bf2c812.html [accessed 23 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

1. Crime Situation, Overview

Sources report high levels of violent crime in Brazil (Human Rights Watch 2012; US 23 Aug. 2012; AI 2011). Amnesty International reports that criminal and police violence is a "serious problem" in large cities (ibid.). Human Rights Watch also states that "widespread violence perpetrated by criminal gangs and abusive police" impacts many Brazilian cities (2012). The UN Report of the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions states that, in some parts of Brazil, citizens fear police as much as they fear violence from drug-trafficking criminals (UN 28 May 2010, 4-5). According to Freedom House, Brazil has one of the highest numbers of homicides in the world, with approximately 50,000 occurring each year (2011). The UN Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) notes in their UNODC Homicide Statistics 2012 that, according to Brazilian Ministry of Justice, the homicide rate in Brazil was 21 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2010, compared to Canada's rate of 1.6 per 100,000 inhabitants the same year (2012, 5, 6).

Various sources indicate that the types of crimes include drug trafficking (Freedom House 2012; Human Rights Watch 2012), pickpocketing (Canada 25 June 2012), purse-snatching (ibid.), robbery (ibid.; US 13 Feb. 2012a), kidnapping (ibid.), carjacking (ibid.), armed assault (ibid.) and extortion (US 24 May 2012, 7; IPS 26 May 2011; Human Rights Watch 2012).

2. Organized Crime and State Response
2.1 Drug Trafficking

According to the US International Narcotics Control Strategy Report 2012 (INCSR), drug trafficking, drug prevention and border security are "matters of national concern" in Brazil (US 7 Mar. 2012). Sources report that criminal activities such as drug trafficking and trafficking of illicit goods occur in border areas (Canada 25 June 2012; US 23 Aug. 2012). Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports that 90 percent of drugs enter the country through Bolivia and Peru and 10 percent through Colombia (26 Aug. 2012). According to the US INCSR, 75 percent of cocaine enters from Bolivia by air (US 7 Mar. 2012). The US The US Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) reports that, in 2011, drugs seized at the international airport in São Paulo "reached record high" (ibid. 13 Feb. 2012b). The US INCSR states that the "scale of the drug problem and the size of the border present special challenges to law enforcement efforts to combat drug trafficking" (ibid. 7 Mar. 2012).

The Chicago Tribune reports that drug gangs control territory in several Brazilian cities, including Rio de Janeiro (2 May 2012). A favela [shantytown] pacification program was established in 2008 (US 23 Aug. 2012; Human Rights Watch Jan. 2012). Since that time, about 20 pacifying police units (UPP) have been installed in Rio de Janeiro (ibid.). These units aim to dismantle gang control in favelas and promote security for residents in the long term (UN 28 May 2010, para. 19, 21). EFE News Services, an international news agency, reports that UPPs were installed in 28 favelas and poor neighbourhoods of Rio de Janeiro in order to expel drug gangs (13 Oct. 2012). In 2012, about 3,500 police officers were assigned to fight drug trafficking in favelas (AFP 26 Aug. 2012). The report of the UN Special Rapporteur indicates that the government made "real progress in preventing gangs from re-asserting their presence" in favelas under UPP control (UN 28 May 2010, para. 22). However, some civil society members expressed concern about "harassment of residents through increased searches and seizures, and heavy police control over the daily lives of residents" (ibid., para. 23). Further, the US Department of State Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011 states that although UPPs reduced violence in a dozen communities, police were responsible for about 30 percent of civilian casualties in UPP operations (US 24 May 2012, 2).

According to the US INCSR, in 2011, the Brazilian government introduced the Strategic Border Plan in order to fight drug trafficking, arms trafficking and human trafficking, among other crimes (US 7 Mar. 2012). For instance, as part of the plan, the government conducted two operations resulting in seizures of 62 tons of marijuana and cocaine from June to September 2011 (ibid.). It also destroyed various clandestine airstrips (ibid.). In 2012, 17,000 troops were deployed to fight drug trafficking in border areas (AFP 26 Aug. 2012). Federal police seized 27 tons of cocaine in 2010 and 24 tonnes in 2011 (ibid.).

2.2 Militias

Human Rights Watch reports that "communities formerly controlled by drug dealers are now in the hands of militias" (2012). Militias [armed paramilitary-style groups (AI 2011)] are made up of police officers, prison guards and firefighters (Human Rights Watch 2012; AI 4 June 2009; IPS 26 May 2011). Sources indicate that these groups operate in Rio de Janeiro (ibid.; US 24 May 2012, 7; AI 2011). There are about 1,000 favelas in Rio de Janeiro (UN 28 May 2010, para. 24). Country Reports 2011 states that, according to human rights observers, militia groups control up to a third of Rio de Janeiro's favelas (US 24 May 2012, 7). Similarly, Inter Press Service (IPS) international news agency says that militias are active in more than 300 neighbourhoods in Rio de Janeiro (IPS 27 May 2011).

Amnesty International reports that militias use "violence and intimidation to control favelas" (21 June 2012). Sources state that militia groups have been implicated in extortions (US 24 May 2012, 7; IPS 26 May 2011; Human Rights Watch 2012). Militia groups also force residents to pay for illegal utility services (ibid.; US 24 May 2012, 7). Human Rights Watch also adds that militias are responsible for kidnappings, execution-style killings and torture of journalists investigating their activities (2012).

According to the UN Special Rapporteur, militias remain "untouched" and continue to be a "major threat to security in Rio de Janeiro" (UN 28 May 2010, para. 29). However, Country Reports 2011 indicates that, in 2011, several operations were carried out targeting police officers accused of collusion with militia groups (US 24 May 2012, 7). For instance, in Rio State, the operation led to the arrest of 21 military police officers and 11 civil police officers and the resignation of the Rio civil police chief (ibid.). Further information on the operations targeting militias could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

2.3 Trafficking in Persons

Freedom House reports that human trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation and for the purpose of forced labour continues from and within Brazil (2012). The US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report 2012 also says that Brazil is a destination and transit country for forced labour and sex trafficking (US 2012, 94). A large number of Brazilian women are subject to sex trafficking to France, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States and Japan (ibid.). Infosurhoy, a news agency for Latin America and the Caribbean (Infosurhoy n.d.), also states that Brazilian women have been trafficked to Europe (ibid. 13 Sept. 2010). Brazilian men and transgender Brazilians are found in sex trafficking in Italy and Spain (US 2012, 94). Brazilian women and children are subjected to sex trafficking within Brazil, in Suriname, French Guiana, Guyana and Venezuela (ibid.). According to the US Trafficking in Persons Report 2012, the government of Brazil does not comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking in persons, although it is making efforts in this regard (ibid., 95).

Sources report cases of forced labour (US 24 May 2012, 27; Freedom House 2011; BBC 26 June 2010). According to Country Report 2011, victims of forced labour are often men, women and children from impoverished northeastern states in Brazil (US 24 May 2012, 27). According to the report, there were approximately 25,000 forced labourers in Brazil with the highest number of them in the cattle-raising industry (ibid., 28).

According to Freedom House, several thousand slave-labour victims were rescued through the government mobile labour inspection operations in 2010 (2011). The US Trafficking in Persons Report 2012 states that there were nine convictions in 2011 and 2,800 slave labour victims were identified by the labour inspection operations and by anti-trafficking officers in 14 states (US 2012, 95). The government cooperated with civil society and international organizations to raise awareness of sex and labour trafficking (ibid.). Further information on the above-mentioned cooperation could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constrains of this Response.

3. Effectiveness of State Protection
3.1 Police

According to Freedom House, violence and corruption remains an "entrenched problem" in the police force (2012). A professor at the International Relations Institute of the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, who is also the Research Director of the Igarape Institute, a think tank in Rio de Janeiro, states that "very little" is done by the police in practice to protect citizens from criminal agents or groups (Professor 2 Oct. 2012). He further points out that "in all Brazilian states the military and civilian police are known to have some elements that are connected to criminal organizations - be they trafficking groups, militia, gambling outfits, racketeers or others" (ibid.).

For instance, Amnesty International reports that, between January and September 2010, 240 people were killed across the capital and greater São Paulo by people linked to police death squads and criminal gangs (AI 2011). Sources state that death squads are often formed by law enforcement officers (ibid.; UN 28 May 2010, para. 30). According to the report of the UN Special Rapporteur, the goal of the death squads is generally to kill for profit (ibid.). Amnesty International indicates that death squads are "often contracted by local businesses to threaten, torture and kill petty thieves" (AI 2011).

Sources report that a former city councillor, who denounced death squads in Pernambuco and Paraiba states states for many years, was shot to death in 2009 (ibid. 27 Jan. 2009; UN 28 May 2010, para. 32). The report of the UN Special Rapporteur provides another example of a colonel who was killed in 2008 because he began an investigation into death squads in São Paulo that reportedly involved more than 50 military police officers (ibid., para. 33).

However, the UN Special Rapporteur reports that, in 2009, the Pernambuco government announced that approximately 400 people were imprisoned for their participation in death squads (ibid., para. 31). The government of Paraiba also launched an investigation of a death squad responsible for 300 murders (Latin American Herald Tribune 7 Jan. 2010). In São Paulo, 14 members of a death squad were arrested for their links to 12 murders (UN 28 May 2010, para. 33). Corroboration of the results of the investigations could not be found among sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

The UN Special Rapporteur states that police investigations, especially of killings by police, were "often inadequate" (ibid., para. 46). According to Front Line Defenders, an international foundation for the protection of human rights defenders, police officers that committed crimes often remained free from any investigation or prosecution (18 Nov. 2011, 4). Freedom House also reports that police officers are "rarely prosecuted for abuses, and those charged are almost never convicted" (2012).

3.2 Judiciary

According to Front Line Defenders, the judicial system often fails to investigate and punish the perpetrators of violations (18 Nov. 2011, 4). Country Reports 2011 indicates that "delays in special military police courts allowed many cases to expire due to statutes of limitations" (US 24 May 2012, 8). Freedom House states that the judiciary is "overburdened, plagued by corruption, and virtually powerless in the face of organized crime" (2012). Human Rights Watch reports that justice officials who try to prosecute police officers face threats of violence (Jan. 2012).

For instance, sources report that, in 2011, a judge who was known for "her aggressive stand on probing organized crime and police links to gangs" (AFP 12 Sept. 2011) was shot dead (ibid. 12 Aug. 2011; Freedom House 2012; Human Rights Watch Jan. 2012). According to Front Line Defenders, the judge sentenced more than 60 police officers to prison (18 Nov. 2011, 4). Freedom House reports that seven police officers and a military police chief were arrested in September 2011 for the killing of the judge (2012). Country Reports 2011 also indicates that several members of the Rio de Janeiro military police were arrested in September 2011 on charges of participating in the killing (US 24 May 2012, 2). According to Human Rights Watch, after the killing of the judge, the number of judicial workers requesting government protection increased by 400 percent (2012).

4. Witness Protection Program

Brazilian Law 9,807/99 makes provision for witness protection and establishes the Program for Assisting Victims and Threatened Witnesses (Brazil 2009). In his report The Brazilian Legal Framework for Investigation, Prosecution and Trial of Transnational Organized Crime, presented at the 134th International Training Course of the UN Asia and Far East Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders (UNAFEI) (UN n.d.a), the Police Chief and Deputy Director of the Special Division for Combating Crime in Brazil indicates that witness protection can be requested by a witness, by a victim, by the Department of Justice, by the police, or by public agencies or entities defending human rights (Costa Dec. 2007, 73). A decision on the granting of protection is made by the judge responsible for the criminal process (ibid.). The report further indicates that arrangements such as change of residence, change of identity and monthly financial support are available to any beneficiary of the program (ibid.). Two sources state that the program also offers social, psychological, medical and other assistance to protected individuals (ibid.; Conectas and GAJOP n.d., 6). The report of the Amarribo Brasil, a civil society organization aiming to fight corruption (Amarribo Brasil n.d.), and the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) Coalition indicates that the law protecting witnesses extends the protection to spouses, descendants and relatives (Amarribo Brasil and the UNCAC Coalition May 2012, 7).

According to a report presented by a senior expert of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) at the Fourth Regional Seminar on Good Governance for Southeast Asian Countries of UNAFEI (UN n.d.b), support services and relocation for the witness protection program in Brazil are provided by NGOs (Kramer 2011, 10). IPS also reports that the witness protection program is run through agreements with the states and NGOs, which are responsible for providing assistance to the protected witnesses (26 May 2011). The UN Special Rapporteur indicated that the program is funded by states and the federal government (UN 28 May 2010, para. 55). However, funding is not always adequate (ibid.). The federal government invested approximately 13 million Brazilian Reals [C$6 million (XE 16 Oct. 2012)] into the witness protection program in 2009 (US 11 Mar. 2010, Sec. 6). In 2009, 982 individuals were under its protection (ibid.). IPS reports that in 2011, there were 1200 witnesses receiving protection (27 May 2011).

The report of the senior expert of the UNODC states that the witness protection program "reportedly works well" (Kramer 2011, 11). IPS also reports that, according to the government officials, the program is effective because, since its creation in 1996, none of the protected witnesses have been killed (27 May 2011).

However, other observers say that the law protecting witnesses is not effectively enforced (Professor 2 Oct. 2012; Amarribo Brasil and the UNCAC Coalition May 2012, 7). The report of the UN Special Rapporteur states that the program lacks adequate funding and the states have been slow in setting up systematic relocation programs (UN 28 May 2010, para. 55). The report further indicates that many witnesses refused to come forward because they feared police, militia, or gang retaliations (ibid., para. 52). Similarly, Country Reports 2011 states that police officers "continue to be involved in revenge killings and the intimidation of witnesses who testified against police" (US 24 May 2012, 1). For instance, in March 2009, a military police officer was sentenced to nine years imprisonment for organizing the killing of seven people in 2008 (ibid. 11 Mar. 2010, Sec. 1d). Four months after his trial, four relatives of the main witness went missing (ibid.).

In an interview with the IPS, one of the protected witnesses described the mistreatment he experienced while in the witness protection program (IPS 26 May 2011). He claimed that he and his family did not receive legal, social or psychological assistance, and payments needed for their survival were frequently delayed (ibid.). The protected witness also indicated that the family "suffered discrimination and intimidation" from the staff of the protection program (ibid.). When the family filed a complaint, they were threatened that they would be removed from the program (ibid.). Corroboration on the above mentioned information could not be found among sources consulted by the Research Directorate within time constraints of this Response.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Agence France-Presse (AFP). 26 August 2012. Hector Velasco. "Brazil Cracks Down on Cocaine Trafficking in Border Areas." (Factiva)

_____. 12 September 2011. "Three Policemen Held in Slaying of Brazil Judge." (Factiva)

_____. 12 August 2011. "Brazil Judge Battling Organized Crime Shot Dead." (Factiva)

Amarribo Brasil. N.d. "O Que é a Amarribo Brasil." [Accessed 15 Oct. 2012]

Amarribo Brasil and the UNCAC Coalition. May 2012. UN Convention Against Corruption Civil Society Review: Brazil 2012. [Accessed 11 Oct. 2012]

Amnesty International (AI). 21 June 2012. Dangerous and Deadly Arms Trade. [Accessed 27 Sept. 2012]

_____. 2011. "Brazil." Amnesty International Report 2011: The State of the World's Human Rights. [Accessed 16 Oct. 2012]

_____. 4 June 2009. "Brazilian Politician at Risk of Assassination by Militia Groups." [Accessed 12 Oct. 2012]

_____. 27 January 2009. "Human Rights Activist Assassinated in Brazil." [Accessed 19 Oct. 2012]

Brazil. 2009. Office of the Comptroller General. "Measures Taken by Brazil to Comply with the UN Convention Against Corruption." [Accessed 27 Sept. 2012]

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). 26 June 2010. Vladimir Hernandez. "Forced Labour Clouds Boom in Brazil's Amazon." [Accessed 19 Oct. 2012]

Canada. 25 June 2012. Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada. "Travel Report: Brazil." [Accessed 27 Sept. 2012]

Chicago Tribune. 2 May 2012. "Brazil Faces Uneasy Frontier Nation Looks for Guidance to Keep Immigrants, Drugs from Crossing its Lengthy Border." (Factiva).

Conectas Human Rights and Legal Advisory Office for Popular Organizations (Conectas and GAJOP). N.d. [Accessed 15 Oct. 2012]

Costa, Fernando Cesar. December 2007. "The Brazilian Legal Framework for Investigation, Prosecution and Trial of Transnational Organized Crime." United Nations Asia and Far East Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders (UNAFEI) Resource Material Series No.73. [Accessed 27 Sept. 2012]

EFE News Services. 13 October 2012. "5 Die in Lead-up Operation to Occupying 2 Huge Rio Shantytowns." (Factiva)

Freedom House. 2012. "Brazil." Freedom in the World 2012. [Accessed 27 Sept. 2012]

_____. 2011. "Brazil." Freedom in the World 2011. [Accessed 27 Sept. 2012]

Front Line Defenders. 18 November 2011. "Brazil." [Accessed 19 Sept. 2012]

Human Rights Watch. 2012. "Brazil." World Report 2012: Events of 2011. [Accessed 10 Oct. 2012]

_____. 2011. "Brazil." World Report 2011: Events of 2010. [Accessed 10 Oct. 2012]

Infosurhoy [Rio de Janeiro]. 13 September 2010. Nelza Oliveira. "Brazil a Target for Human Traffickers." [Accessed 11 Oct. 2012]

_____. N.d. "About this Site." [Accessed 11 Oct. 2012]

Inter Press Service (IPS). 27 May 2011. Fabiola Ortiz. "Brazil: Red Tape Undermines Witness Protection - Part 2." [Accessed 19 Sept. 2012]

_____. 26 May 2011. Fabiola Ortiz. "Brazil: Protected Witness Speaks Out - Part 1." [Accessed 19 Sept. 2012]

Kramer, Karen. 2011. Witness Protection as a Key Tool in Addressing Serious and Organized Crime. Visiting expert paper presented to the Fourth Regional Seminar on Good Governance for Southeast Asian countries held by the United Nations Asia and Far East Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders (UNAFEI). [Accessed 25 Sept. 2012]

Latin American Herald Tribune. 7 January 2010. "Brazil Death Squad Suspected of 300 Murders." [Accessed 27 Sept. 2012]

Professor, International Relations Institute, Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro. 2 October 2012. Correspondence with the Research Directorate.

United Nations (UN). 2012. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). UNODC Homicide Statistics 2012. [Accessed 23 Oct. 2012]

_____. 28 May 2010. Human Rights Council. Report of the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, Philip Alson. A/HRC/14/24/Add4 [Accessed 24 Sept. 2012]

_____. N.d.a Asia and Far East Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders (UNAFEI). "Resource Material Series No. 73." [Accessed 13 Nov. 2012]

_____. N.d.b. Asia and Far East Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders (UNAFEI). "Fourth Regional Seminar on Good Governance for Southeast Asian Countries: Securing Protection and Cooperation of Witnesses and Whistle-Blowers." [Accessed 13 Nov. 2012]

United States (US). 23 August 2012. Department of State. "Brazil: Country Specific Information." [Accessed 10 Oct. 2012]

_____. 24 May 2012. Department of State. "Brazil." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011. [Accessed 25 May 2012]

_____. 7 March 2012. Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. "Brazil." 2012 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR). [Accessed 19 Oct. 2012]

_____. 13 February 2012a. Department of State, Bureau of Diplomatic Security. "Brazil 2012 OSAC Crime and Safety Report: Brasilia." [Accessed 27 Sept. 2012]

_____. 13 February 2012b. Department of State, Bureau of Diplomatic Security. "Brazil 2012 OSAC Crime and Safety Report: São Paulo." [Accessed 27 Sept. 2012]

_____. 2012. Department of State. Trafficking in Persons Report 2012. [Accessed 20 Sept. 2012]

_____. 11 March 2010. Department of State. "Brazil." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2009. [Accessed 12 Oct. 2012]

XE. 16 October 2012. "Currency Converter Widget." [Accessed 16 Oct. 2012]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Attempts to contact the following organizations were unsuccessful: academics at the Murdoch University, Embassy of Brazil in Ottawa, lawyers in Brazil, Legal Advisory Office for Popular Organizations, Programa de Apoio e Protecao a Testemunhas (PROVITA).

Internet sites, including: Associated Press; Brazil — Associação Brasileira de Magistrados; Attorney General of the Republic, embassies of Brazil in Australia, Ottawa, and Washington DC, Federaçao Nacional de Oficiais e Justiça do Brasil, Federal Public Ministry, Federal Senate, Government Portal, Infojus, Presidency of the Federative Republic of Brazil; Centre for International Policy Studies, University of Ottawa; Derechos Human Rights; Drug Law Reform in Latin America; The Economist; Global Legal Information Network; In Sight Crime; Istoé Independente; Inter American Press Association; International Federation for Human Rights; International Money Laundering Information Network; Infolegis; Instituto de Prensa; Inter-American Commission on Human Rights; International Organization for Migration; Jane's Intelligence Review; Minority Rights Group International; El Pais; Political Handbook of the World; Small Arms Survey; Organization of American States; State University of New York Law School; UN — Refworld, UN Women; UN Convention Against Corruption Coalition ; US — Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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