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The legacy of the Rio 2016 Olympics has been shattered with at least eight people killed in police operations in the city during the Games and peaceful protests heavily repressed, Amnesty International said.

“Brazil has lost the most important medal at play during Rio 2016: the chance to become a champion on human rights,” said Atila Roque, Executive Director at Amnesty International Brazil.

“The Brazilian authorities missed a golden opportunity to follow on their promises to implement public security policies to make Rio a safe city for all. The only way to undo some of many wrongs that took place during the Games is to ensure all killings and other human rights violations by the police are effectively investigated and that those responsible are brought to justice.”

Rise in killings by police

In 2016, police killings in Rio increased month on month as the city prepared to welcome the world.

According to the Institute for Public Security of the State of Rio de Janeiro, police in the city killed 35 people in April 2016, 40 in May and 49 in June – an average of more than one every single day.

Violent police operations took place throughout the Games (5-21 August) in several areas of Rio de Janeiro, including Acari, Cidade de Deus, Borel, Manguinhos, Alemão, Maré, Del Castilho and Cantagalo. These killed at least eight people (three at Del Castilho, four in Maré and one in Cantagalo). The death toll could rise –  information on fatalities  has yet to be confirmed in two other favelas, Acari and Manguinhos.

People who live in those areas have also reported other human rights violations such as home invasions, direct threats and physical and verbal aggressions by the police.

Brazil’s “war on drugs” and heavily armed approach to the security operations has also been putting police at risk. At least two police officers were killed during the first 10 days of the Games. 

 In the first week of the Olympic Games (5-12 August) 59 armed shootouts were registered in the metropolitan region of Rio de Janeiro, a scary average of 8.4 per day (almost double the previous week, which saw 32 shootouts – a daily average of 4.5). In the same period, at least 14 people were killed and another 32 were injured due to armed violence, according to data collected by Cross-Fire, an app launched by Amnesty International in July to track gun violence in the favelas.

Repression of protests

Protesters have been harshly repressed by the police, both inside and outside sports arenas. Peaceful public demonstrations that took place in Rio de Janeiro on 5 and 12 August were met with police violence, including the use of less lethal weapons such as tear gas and stun grenades; several people were detained. Several others were removed from competition areas for holding banners or wearing T-shirts with messages of protest, a violation of their right to freedom of expression.

In São Paulo, police heavily repressed a demonstration on 5 August, resulting in more than 100 detentions, including at least 15 minors.

“We ended the Olympic Games with even more militarized public security policies, focused on a very selective repression, excessive use of force and combat-like police operations in favelas. The outcome has been clear – a rising death toll and other human rights violations of the residents, especially young black men,” said Atila Roque.

“Once again, the legacy of a major sporting event in Brazil has been tainted by police killings and abuses against peaceful protesters. The International Olympic Committee and other sport organizing bodies must not allow these events to be held at the expense of people’s human rights.”