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Agatha, another victim of tacit permission to kill

She was eight years old and is the fifth girl minor to be murdered this year in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil). Rumours are that it was the police who murdered her. The investigation is underway. In all, 16 children are reportedly injured or dead, with the majority of them being black.

 

Osvaldo Cardosa

 

There has been a perceptible increase in deaths caused by the police in the city. Deaths caused by involvement of officers increased by 16% between January and August, going up from 1,075  in the first eight months of 2018 to 1,249 in the same period of this year.

 

On 20th September, eight year-old Agatha Vitória Sales Félix, was shot down by a stray bullet in the Complexo do Alemao, a group of favelas in the northern part of Rio de Janeiro.

The girl was returning to her home along with her mother in a minibus when the bullet struck her.  The bullet sped through the minibus and ripped into her body through her back.

Although it is still not known who pulled the trigger, “police officers heard other officers talking”, alleged perpetrators of the murder. At least eight military conscripts have testified and turned in their weapons.

Without finishing its investigation, the Policía Militar (PM) is avoiding taking any responsibility, and argues that there is no evidence of involvement of any officer in the crime. According to the PM, its agents were attacked by drug traffickers and they responded by firing.

However, the relatives of the girl affirm that bullet that took the life of Agatha came from the police, although they also talk about a quarrel in a bar.

“There was no clash. We live in this area, so if there were an attack, we would have known about it. We are familiar with the sound of bullets, so if there were an attack we would have heard it.  The girl was shot by accident. A motorbike passed by and the police aimed at the motorbike, but by mistake they shot at the kombi (minibus)”, Daniele Lima Félix, one of the uncles of Agatha, told journalists.

The local residents echoed his words, convinced that the target of the officers was the motorcyclist.

The death of Agatha has opened a big debate in the country about the current security policy in the city and the anti-crime project that the government is preparing, in which a relaxation of punishment for the police officers is being talked about.

The death of an innocent person at the hands of the police, and especially of a minor, raises questions about the initiative put in place by Minister of Public Justice, Sérgio Moro.

The project advocates more lenient punishments for police and military officers for committing excesses in criminal combats, like the one involving Agatha.

For now, the project is being debated in the Congress and it is being said that police officers who kill or harm someone in the act of duty may have their sentences halved or not be penalized at all, provided that they acted under “excusable fear, surprise or violent emotion”, or in other words “precluding wrongfulness”.

Besides this, the Agatha case has generated lot of criticism against the radical policy of Wilson Witzel, the governor of Rio, who promised to fight against violence “with violence” in the city which celebrates the biggest Carnival in the world, with carriages, extravagant costumes and samba dancers.

Witzel asserted that he will give priority to the investigation of the case but blamed narco-trafficking and consumption of drugs for the death of the girl.

Human rights organizations reject the security policy of Witzel, which supports armed operations against delinquents at the cost of the lives of innocents.

Sociologist Julita Tannuri Lemguber, former director of the Prison System in Rio, commented that these bloody encounters are a direct result of the tacit permission given to the police to kill, by authorities like Witzel and the President Jair Bolsonaro.

According to lieutenant general (ret) of the PM Adilson Paes de Souza, the police involved in the murder will not be held responsible.

“It’s almost certain that the inquiry will not result in anything positive. Without anything in hand, any police evidence, without identifying the weapon with which the shooting happened, there is no way to press charges against any police officer. The system works in a way that impunity is guaranteed”, said de Souza to the newspaper Rede Brasil Atual. (PL)

(Translated by C.Siddharth- Email: c.siddharth86@gmail.com) Photos: Pixabay

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