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Brazil court bans raids in Rio favelas during pandemic

(Aerial view showing the Pavao-Pavaozinho favela surrounded by the neighbourhoods of Copacabana, Ipanema and Lagoa. A judge has banned police raids on favelas during the coronavirus pandemic. AFP-File-MAURO PIMENTEL)

Rio de Janeiro, (AFP):- A Brazilian Supreme Court justice banned police raids Friday in the slums of Rio de Janeiro during the coronavirus pandemic, amid growing criticism of recent cases of police violence.

Judge Edson Fachin ruled police raids on the city’s impoverished “favelas” could only be used in “absolutely exceptional” cases, and only with prior authorization from the state prosecutor’s office, for the duration of the health crisis.

“Recent incidents have made the state’s armed operations in Rio de Janeiro’s communities even more troubling,” the court said in a statement.

“The protocols on the use of force (by police) were already precarious. The pandemic, which has caused people to spend most of their time at home, has made the usefulness of those protocols questionable and the risk even greater.”

Fachin specifically mentioned the case of a 14-year-old boy, Joao Pedro Mattos Pinto, who was shot dead in his home during a police raid on the Salgueiro favela complex on May 18.

Pinto’s family said officers entered the house shooting and throwing grenades, despite the fact that only children were inside.

“Nothing can justify a 14-year-old child being shot more than 70 times,” Fachin said.

Despite the pandemic, Pinto’s death and other recent incidents of police violence have triggered protests in Rio’s slums, echoing the demonstrations against police brutality sweeping the United States.

Rio police have often been accused of using excessive force.

They killed more than 1,800 people statewide last year, up 18 percent from 2018.

Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, whose political base is in Rio, is a staunch defender of aggressive police tactics and fierce advocate for gun rights.

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