A Brazilian judge convicted and sentenced a group of police officers for their involvement in Brazil’s worst instance of prison violence.
The twenty-three police officers, most of them now retired, each received prisons sentences of 156 years as punishment for killing fifteen inmates of Sao Paulo's Carandirú prison in October 1992.
No officers were among the 111 fatalities of the incident referred to as the “Carandirú massacre” that began when officers attempting to quell rioting among rival gangs.
Prosecutors argued that dozens of Brazil’s Military Police officers indiscriminately fired on prisoners who surrendered or were hiding in their cells. They purportedly used shotguns and machine guns to murder 102 prisoners including some at point-blank range.
"We never thought they would come in and kill people randomly, as not everyone had joined the rebellion," said ex-Carandirú prisoner Jacy de Oliveira to the BBC News.
“The sentence does not reflect the thinking of Brazilian society,” said one of the defense attorneys who alleged that their clients were performing theirs duties and protecting themselves from violent inmates.
At least seventy-nine current and former Military Police officers are expected to face charges in four separate trials. For the Amnesty International human rights group, authorities could do more to prevent impunity twenty-one years after the massacre:
“This trial must be a turning point”, said Atila Roque, Amnesty International’s Brazil Office director. “For years, the delay in bringing those responsible for the Carandiru massacre to justice has been a dark cloud hanging over the whole country – we hope that now this impunity is finally coming to an end.”
Amnesty International said that not only the police officers who actually committed the crimes, but also the heads of the São Paulo state public security authority and the state Governor at that time should face justice...
Col. Ubiratan Guimaraes, the commanding officer of the operation, was sentenced in 2001 to 632 years behind bars for his role in the massacre. In 2006 later a court voided the conviction because of mistrial claims and later that year he was killed.
“Be it negligence or collusion, the judicial system has at best ignored at worst shown complete contempt for any concept of justice and the rights of those who were brutally and shamelessly killed in Carandiru.”
Over 100,000 inmates were packed into the prison that at the time of the massacre was the largest correctional facility in South America.
Carandirú did not close until ten years after the massacre when inmates coordinated simultaneous uprisings in twenty-seven prions across Sao Paulo state and held thousands of people as hostages.
The site of the infamous prison was made into a complex with a library, a public park and two technical schools. Yet as we mentioned in 2012, the most infamous legacy of the Carandirú massacre may be the emergence of the First Command of the Capital gang that is believed to have members in ninety percent of Sao Paulo prisons.
Video Source– YouTube via user Folha
Online Sources – Amnesty International; ABC (Australia); BBC News; The Latin Americanist