By Cintia Garcia

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

BRASILIA, BRAZIL—On September 27, a court in Brazil acquitted 74 police officers in the massacre of 111 prisoners during the prison riot of 1992 in Carandiru Jail located in Sao Paulo. Two members of the court of appeals ruled there was insufficient evidence against the officers but affirmed excess force had been committed. One member of the court declared the officers not guilty.

Inmates within their Carandirú prison cells. (Photo Courtesy of Human Rights Watch)

The trials took place in 2013 and 2014, more than twenty years after the riot took place. The officers were convicted of executing the prisoners and received sentences ranging from 48 to 624 years in prison. None of the officers convicted served their sentence. One of the commanders, Colonel Ubiratan Guimaraes, was sentenced to 624 years in prison in 2001 but was acquitted on appeal in 2006. The defense on appeal argued that the police officers fought back during the violent uprising as self-defense. The prosecutors presented evidence showing the police officers shot prisoners and later destroyed evidence making it difficult to determine who was responsible for the killings.

The massacre took place on October 2, 1992 when a riot broke out in the over crowded Carandiru Jail. The police sought to negotiate with the prisoners but a few hours later, in riot gear, stormed into Wing Nine of the prison and began to shoot the prisoners. According to Human Rights Watch, some of the inmates killed were found naked, on their knees, and with their hands up. Many present during the riot claimed that they were forced to remove bodies and alter the crime scene. Amnesty International Director of Brazil, Atila Roque, stated that, “the fact that 111 prisoners can be killed without anybody being held responsible after 24 years is not only shocking, but sends a terrifying message about the state of human rights in Brazil.

Prosecutors will appeal decision.

For more information, please see:

Amnesty International—Brazil Declares Trial on Carandiru Massacres Null in Shocking Blow for Justice—28 September 2016.

BBC—Appeal Begins in Brazil Against Acquittal—29 September 2016.

Human Rights Watch—A Major Setback for Justice in Brazil—28 September 2016.

International Business Times—Relatives of Prisoner who Died in 1992 Brazilian Jail Riot Start Appealing After Court Acquits 74 Police Officers –29 September 2016.

Author: Cintia Garcia