November 3, 2007 / 1:45 AM / in 11 years

Rio police accused of executions ahead of UN probe

By Andrei Khalip

RIO DE JANEIRO, Nov 2 (Reuters) - Rio de Janeiro security authorities tried on Friday to discredit a top-level report accusing police of summary executions, just as a U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings was due to visit Brazil.

A report by the government’s Special Secretariat for Human Rights released this week said it had evidence that at least two suspects out of 19 killed in June’s massive police raid in Alemao slum were summarily executed in the back of the head.

It also said five suspects were shot at point-blank range, and criticized as incomplete reports by coroners and police about the dead suspects.

Rights groups often accuse Rio’s police of brutality and executions but investigations seldom provide solid evidence.

The report embarrassed Rio state authorities just days before U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions, Philip Alston, is to start a 10-day visit on Sunday. He will meet government officials and rights groups in four cities including Rio over allegations of executions or torture by security officials and death squads, as well as impunity.

Rio has one of the highest murder rates in Latin America. Drug gangs control many of its 700-plus slums, and bloody standoffs with police occur almost daily. Police have killed 961 suspects in Rio state in the first nine months of 2007.

In a statement on Friday, the Rio state security secretariat dismissed the report as groundless, lacking key testimony from witnesses or police who took part in the raid, and said the experts never visited the Alemao slum to gather evidence.

Security Secretary Jose Beltrame said the report was "made under pressure from those trying to twist the just cause of human rights" and the information gathered "in no way justifies the conclusion there have been executions."

"(The experts) worked exclusively interpreting Rio de Janeiro technical police coroners’ reports, which disqualifies the document from the point of view of science and technical expertise," he said in a statement.

Human rights secretariat ombudsman Pedro Montenegro was quoted as saying in the local media that there was no proper investigation because the authorities "didn’t want it".

The military-style raid involving over 1,300 police occurred a couple of weeks before the start of July’s Pan American Games in Rio. Crime experts said the show of force was a warning to Rio’s drug gangs for them to keep a low profile during the games. Rights groups called the raid a "massacre".

The heavily policed event concluded without any major security problems. Brazil this week won the right to host the 2014 soccer World Cup. Officials say the success of Rio’s Pan American Games has helped the country to qualify.

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