Brazil court says government must compensate victims of stray bullets in police raids

The Brazilian Supreme Court has ruled that the state must compensate victims of stray bullets during military and law enforcement operations

Gabriela S. Pessoa
Friday 12 April 2024 20:54 BST
Brazil Stray Bullets
Brazil Stray Bullets (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

The Brazilian Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the state must compensate victims of stray bullets during military and law enforcement operations.

The ruling means that the state is now civilly liable for deaths or injuries resulting from either police or armed forces operations, even in cases where the forensics reports are inconclusive.

The country’s top court was ruling in a case stemming from the killing of a man by a stray bullet in 2015 during an army action in Rio de Janeiro’s impoverished Mare neighborhood. The court ordered the federal government to pay 300,000 reais ($60,000) to his family, who will also receive a lifetime pension and have the victim’s funeral expenses covered.

​​“The risk of stray bullets and violent firearm deaths is recurring in the country. Efforts are being made to reverse this pattern of violence, which spares no one, including children,” said Cristina Neme, a sociologist and coordinator of Instituto Sou da Paz, a nonprofit that monitors public security.

Brazil registered over 47,000 homicides in 2022, nearly 14% caused by the police, she added. That rate is even higher in Rio de Janeiro state, where the police caused almost 30% of the homicides.

Fogo Cruzado, a nonprofit organization that provides real-time reporting of gun violence in Brazil, has registered 1,195 stray bullet casualties in the Rio metropolitan area since July 2016. According to the data, 284 were killed, and 911 were injured.

In a statement on Friday, Fogo Cruzado stated that the state should compensate all victims of stray bullets, not just those hit in military operations.

“Stray bullets occur because the state has failed to protect citizens’ lives and to control the circulation of firearms," the organization said.

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