The death toll from a Brazilian police raid this week in a Rio de Janeiro favela has increased to 28, a police official said late on Friday, as international human rights groups condemned the violence.
One police officer and 27 people were killed in the raid early on Thursday, which authorities said aimed to root out drug traffickers in Jacarezinho, an impoverished community in the city’s North Zone.
It was the deadliest police operation ever carried out in Rio de Janeiro.
“Intelligence confirmed that the dead were drug dealers. They fired at officers, to kill. They had orders to confront,” Civil Police Chief Allan Turnowski told reporters.
Brazilian officials have identified the 48-year-old officer who died, but none of the others killed in the operation – raising concerns from rights groups and residents who have condemned the police for using excessive force.
“The number of people killed in this police operation is reprehensible, as is the fact that, once again, this massacre took place in a favela,” Jurema Werneck, executive director of Amnesty International Brazil, said in a statement.
“Even if the victims were suspected of criminal association, which has not been proven, summary executions of this kind are entirely unjustifiable. The police have the power to arrest but the courts have the duty to prosecute and judge those suspected of committing crimes.”
The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) also condemned the violence, saying it “furthers a long-standing trend of unnecessary and disproportionate use of force” by Brazilian police in the favelas.
The favelas are home to poor, marginalised and predominantly Afro-Brazilian residents, OHCHR Spokesman Rupert Colville said in a statement on Friday.
“We have received worrying reports that after the events, the police did not take steps to preserve evidence at the crime scene, which could hinder investigations into this lethal operation,” he said.
Colville urged the Brazilian authorities to launch “an independent, thorough and impartial investigation” into what happened.
Brazil’s Supreme Court issued a ruling last year banning most of such police actions during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has ravaged the South American nation and led to more than 400,000 deaths – the second highest tally in the world.