Ruling from the I/A Court HR
In May 2017, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights found Brazil responsible for failing to ensure full access to justice to the victims of the Cosme Rosa Genoveva and others v. Brazil case.
In the judgment, the Court found that investigations into the 1994 killings should be carried out effectively and, in terms of the 1995 massacre, should be initiated or reactivated, ensuring full access of family members to participate in the process at any stage.
Additionally, the ruling emphasized that the lack of investigation into the acts of sexual violence committed by State agents constituted a form of torture. The Inter-American decision indicated specific obligations for the investigations to be carried out by trained officials, specifically equipped to deal with victims of discrimination and gender-based violence.
Furthermore, the Inter-American Court's judgment recognized that the facts present in case are indicative of the country’s structural violence, noting that "police violence represents a human rights problem in Brazil, especially in Rio de Janeiro", where, "among deaths related to police violence, it is estimated that the majority are Afro-descendant, poor and unarmed youth". In its decision, the Court also notes that, "women who live in communities with increased levels of violence and confrontation often face particular types of threats and are attacked, injured, harassed and can be victims of sexual violence at the hands of the police."
Moreover, because the homicides in these two massacres were recorded as "self-defense" despite having the trappings of extrajudicial killings, they were not investigated because of the presumption a confrontation had taken place between the police and members of the community. The absence of adequate and impartial investigation procedures resulted in the lack of clarification of the facts and, as a consequence, laid the blame on the victims. In this regard, the Court also acknowledged that, "Before investigating police conduct, in many cases an inquiry is made into the profile of the deceased victim and the investigation is terminated when they are considered potential criminals."
The judgment of the Inter-American Court is a landmark achievement because it recognizes that the structural nature of violence in Brazil. This problem is catalyzed by a judicial system that fails to investigate and punish law enforcement officials involved in criminal activities, especially if they’re committed against certain vulnerable groups. The Inter-American Court ordered the Brazilian State to carry out different measures to guarantee truth, justice, and reparation, including the development and implementation of public policies and legislative measures of non-repetition.