Friday, October 21, 2016

Brazilian State Ordered to Pay Millions Over Police Violence
People attend to a demonstrator injured in a violent crackdown by police in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Jan. 13, 2016.

20 October 2016

A judge's ruling has now set strict limitations on the use of force by police in the state of Sao Paulo after violence crackdowns on protesters.

The state of Sao Paulo in Brazil was ordered Wednesday to pay approximately US$2.5 million in compensation for heavy-handed policing during protests in 2013 and further ordered police to refrain from using live ammunition, rubber bullets and tear gas during demonstrations except in exceptional circumstances.

In mid-2013, the Free Fare Movement called on Brazilians in Sao Paulo to take to the streets in protest over a proposed increase in transit fares. The protests quickly escalated in scope, with demonstrators also coming to criticize government spending on stadiums ahead of the 2014 World Cup while public services and infrastructure languished.

These protests were met with fierce repression by police that was widely criticized at the time. In his ruling, Judge Valentino Aparecido de Andrade, said the police's lack of preparation was to blame for the protests descending into violence.

Judge Aparecido added that police had a responsibility to protect the right to demonstrate, which is guaranteed by the Brazilian Constitution.

Police's handling of recent protests by opponents of de facto President Michel Temer, installed after the country's Congress ousted Dilma Rousseff from power, have been criticized for their heavy-handed approach.

Police were accused of human rights violations and acting in excess after it emerged that police were preemptively detaining protesters and using infiltrators to facilitate their arrests.

Sao Paulo's Military Police has tried to argue that organizers of demonstrations must first receive approval from police in order to proceed with their event. Meanwhile, organizers have accused the police of instigating violence and breaking up peaceful protests.

Judge Aparecido's ruling specified that police can only break up a demonstration in cases where the event has lost “its peaceful character in its totality” and that the state must now publicly reveal the name of the official who orders police to break up a demonstration or orders the use of police weapons.

The ruling orders the state to refrain from trying to limit where and when protests may take place and states that individual officers must also wear name tags.

Wednesday's ruling was the product of a complaint filed in April 2014 by the Public Defender's Center for Citizenship and Human Rights together with the Conectas Human Rights Organization and Article 19, which advocates for the defense of freedom of expression.

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