A woman raises her fist as Black movement activists protest in Sao Paulo against police violence after a deadly police…
A woman raises her fist as Black movement activists protest in Sao Paulo against police violence after a deadly police operation in Rio de Janeiro's Jacarezinho slum, in Brazil, May 8, 2021. The banner reads: 'It was not an operation, it was a massacre'.

GENEVA - The U.N. human rights office is calling on the Brazilian government to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into a deadly police operation in one of the favelas in Rio de Janeiro Thursday. 

At least 25 people, including one policeman, were killed in a dawn raid in one of Rio de Janeiro’s shantytowns. The dramatic operation reportedly involved police officers on the ground and in a helicopter overhead shooting into the neighborhood, allegedly against members of a criminal organization.

U.N. human rights spokesman Rupert Colville, says an unknown number of people were injured, including bystanders and people inside their houses.  

“It appears to be the deadliest such operation in more than a decade in Rio de Janeiro and confirms a long-standing trend of unnecessary and disproportionate use of force by police in Brazil’s poor, marginalized and predominantly Afro-Brazilian neighborhoods, known as favelas," Colville said.  

A woman raises her fist as Black movement activists protest in Sao Paulo against police violence in Rio de Janeiro's Jacarezinho slum, in Brazil, May 8, 2021.

Colville notes the operation went ahead despite a ruling by the Federal Supreme Court in 2020, restricting police operations in Rio’s favelas during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He says clearly something is not working in Brazil’s political, governmental and judiciary systems and they need to be fixed. He says problems in the favelas, including criminal activities, have been going on for generations.

“One cannot ignore that. It is a fact of life. But the way of dealing with that, it is the responsibility of the authorities to deal with issues relating to crime, while ensuring that the civilian population and women and children in these very packed and crowded places with many women and children—that they are not affected by these types of operations," Colville said.  

Colville expresses concerns about the veracity of a government-run probe into these disturbing events. He says his office has received worrying reports that police did not take steps to preserve evidence at the crime scene. He adds this could hinder investigations into this lethal operation.

Responding to the raid, Brazilian Vice President Hamilton Maurao was quoted as saying that it was unfortunate that “true narco-guerrillas” retain control over parts of Rio. Reports say President Jair Bolsonaro did not mention the incident during his weekly live broadcast last week on Facebook.

Brazilian police say all those killed in the raid, other than the policeman, were suspected drug traffickers.