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The decision by Rio de Janeiro State Public Prosecutor’s Office to prosecute the killing of a 10-year-old boy in a favela earlier this year is a positive sign towards ensuring the external oversight of police actions, Amnesty International said today.

Eduardo de Jesus Ferreira, who was black, was shot in the head during a police operation in Alemão complex, one of the city’s largest favelas, on 2 April this year.

“The circumstances surrounding young Eduardo’s death could become a watershed moment in the fight against impunity and this is an important step by the Public Prosecutor to ensure external oversight over police actions,” said Átila Roque, Executive Director of Amnesty International Brazil.

“This is crucial when we are talking about a police force that has killed more than 1,000 people between 2014 and 2015 in alleged confrontations. Transparency in this investigation will be a way to protect everyone.”

The Public Prosecutor yesterday charged the military police officer leading the operation, pointing to contradictions in the police Homicide Division’s inquiry, which closed the case in September.

The internal investigation alleged that the boy was killed by a stray police bullet during a gunfight with armed criminals, but testimonies from the family, neighbours and even two of the police officers involved have raised doubts over whether the confrontation took place at the time of the killing.  

Several factors contribute to impunity in killings caused by police in Brazil. For example, Amnesty International Brazil’s research has highlighted the different treatment given to “resistance followed by death” cases compared with homicides in general, as well as the frequent tampering with crime scenes in such cases – including the removal of bodies and attempts to plant weapons and other false “evidence”.  

The victim’s mother, Terezinha Maria de Jesus, is currently taking part in a tour of European countries organized by Amnesty International to highlight its “Young Black Alive” campaign in Brazil. The goal of the campaign is to draw attention to the urgent need for concrete steps to end killings by police and the need for a wider debate about Brazil’s soaring youth homicide rate.