Brazil's alleged child killers go free
Wednesday 11 December 1996
In a bizarre 10-hour trial which ended in the small hours, it was the state prosecution, not the defence, which recommended acquittal in its summing up.
In the words of one human-rights campaigner, Dr Yvonne Bezerra de Mello: "It could only happen in Brazil, and with so-called justice like this, it probably will. People are going to keep killing."
The ruling means only two of at least eight defendants named by eyewitnesses for the Candelaria massacre will serve time. And the two, although they confessed and were sentenced to longer-than-lifetime terms, are reportedly still being paid by the state and working within a Rio military police barracks. With various reductions, troopers Marcus Vinicus Emmanuel and Nelson Cunha may be free within two years, or even earlier if they win pending retrials.
Survivors said two carloads of well-known local policemen in civilian clothes pulled up outside the cathedral on the night of 23 July 1993. They pulled out guns and opened fire on 70 children sleeping on the pavement. Six died on the spot, several were wounded and two were taken away and executed on the city's waterfront.
It was an open secret that local businessmen had paid policemen in the past to move the children out of the area and beat them up. Many residents had backed a "clean up" campaign. After a newspaper advertisement appeared with the headline "Kill a Child Criminal", the editor insisted it was not to be taken seriously.
According to human-rights workers, the judgment made a mockery of pledges by President Fernando Henrique Cardoso to punish the country's endemic police brutality. "This is impunity," said Dr Bezerra de Mello, a millionaire's wife who spends her time looking after homeless children in Rio. "The court would not allow eyewitness survivors to testify. And anyway, we couldn't bring children survivors as witnesses because the police would have killed them. The prosecution was supposed to defend these kids. Instead, they defended the defendants."
Dr Bezerra de Mello said she believed the prosecution must have made a deal with the defence. Prosecutors expressed little sympathy for the victims and attacked Dr Bezerra de Mello personally for helping them. "They [the prosecutors] accused me of organising the kids, of encouraging them to do drugs."
The key witness to the massacre, Wagner dos Santos, was shot and wounded the following year after identifying several of the massacre gunmen. Dr Bezerra de Mello smuggled him to Switzerland for his protection. He returned to give evidence in the trial of Vinicus Emmanuel earlier this year but was forced to flee abroad again after further threats.
- 1 Avengers: Age of Ultron: Nearly 700 German cinemas refuse to show movie
- 2 Donald Trump decides that Baltimore riots are Barack Obama's fault
- 3 X Factor in crisis as numbers of people auditioning plummets
- 4 General Election 2015: Stephen Hawking says he will vote Labour
- 5 Baltimore riots: Furious mother marches her son home live on TV
Bali Nine executions live: Indonesian firing squad shoots dead eight drug offenders despite outcry around world, but a ninth is spared
Keith Harris dead: Orville the Duck ventriloquist dies aged 67 following battle with cancer
The four utterly contradictory polls that tell the story of this election and why it is pointless trying to predict the outcome
Donald Trump decides that Baltimore riots are Barack Obama's fault
General Election 2015: Prospect of Labour-SNP coalition makes one in four voters less likely to support Ed Miliband, says survey
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
EU exit would hit UK economy much harder than neighbouring countries, study finds
Andrew Lloyd Webber: Phantom of the Opera writer mocked after issuing a warning about Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon
General election 2015: Labour will toughen hate crimes legislation surrounding Islamophobia
£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm of accountants based ...
£30000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a financial services c...
£30000 - £32000 per annum + car allowance and on call: Ashdown Group: A succes...
£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Well established small company ...