1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Jair Bolsonaro pardons Brazilian police who used violence

December 24, 2019

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has pardoned some police officers accused or convicted of using violence during operations and sometimes off duty. A record number of people have been killed by police in Rio this year.

File photo: President of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro is recognized as commander-in-chief of the Brazilian Armed Forces as part of Brazil's Presidential Inauguration at Esplanade of the Ministries on January 1, 2019 in Brasilia, Brazil.
Image: Getty Images/B. Prado

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro doubled down on his "mano dura" — firm hand — and gave a gift to one of the world's most lethal police forces, pardoning an undisclosed number of officers who used criminal violence, including homicide, during the course of their duties.

Bolsonaro, a soldier during the military dictatorship, signed his first Christmas pardons in office late Monday and published them in Brazil's official decree on Tuesday.

The pardon covers officers and soldiers convicted of "crimes committed unintentionally" or in "self-defense" by members from all the different branches of the security forces.

It also pardons officers and soldiers convicted of off-duty crimes committed with the intent of "eliminating a present risk to the self or third parties." That includes operations in which the armed forces are called in to suppress demonstrations or other situations that the police alone cannot control.

Elected in a runoff vote in late 2018, Bolsonaro had campaigned on a pledge to get tough on crime. He said security forces accused of killing "10 or 15" criminals "should be decorated and not have to go to court."

Read moreOpinion: Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil's colonial ruler 

Officers kill more

Since taking power in January, Bolsonaro has increased the autonomy of security forces. In May, he signed a decree to relax rules on carrying guns. Various organizations have accused Bolsonaro of endorsing violence against poor people, indigenous groups and LGBT+ communities.

Justice Minister Sergio Moro has even proposed a law that would prevent the prosecution of police accused of many crimes in the course of their work. The opposition argued that such a policy would give security forces impunity, and Congress ultimately rejected it.

According to official data, there were 13,142 homicides in the first six months of 2019 — a drop of 21.2% from the same period in the previous year, when there were 16,670. The drop coincided, however, with a marked increase in police homicides, especially in Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro.

In Rio, for example, the number of homicides decreased 22.6% in the first half of 2019, but the number of deaths at the hands of police increased, especially in poorer districts; killings by officers represented 30% of the 2,083 total homicides in the first half of 2019.

mkg/msh (EFE, Reuters)

Every day, DW's editors send out a selection of the day's hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.