Only 8% of murder cases in Brazil’s rural areas made it to trial in 33 years: report

Country reported 1,940 killings in rural areas in more than three decades, but only 135 suspects were convicted

Leia em português | Brasil de Fato | São Paulo

Police operation killed 21 landless farmers and injured more than 60 in Eldorado dos Carajás in 1996, but 142 officers were acquitted / Amnesty International

A survey released by the Brazilian religious advocacy group Pastoral Land Commission (CPT) showed that only 117 of the 1,468 murder cases in land conflicts in Brazil between 1985 and 2018 made it to trial. The conflicts in the period resulted in 1,940 dead, but suspects in only 8 percent of the cases were brought before a court in over three decades, the report showed.

José Batista Afonso, a lawyer with the CPT and one of the producers of the report, said violent crimes in land conflicts are actually under-reported, because most of them are committed in very remote areas, like parts of the Amazon region.

Pará state, in northern Brazil, recorded 39 percent of all rural murder crimes in the period – 724 cases – but suspects in only 22 cases, or 3 percent, were brought to trial.

One of the most infamous cases in Brazil’s recent history of land conflicts also took place in Pará state. On Apr. 17, 1996, a police operation killed 21 landless workers and injured more than 60. The mass killing shocked the world. Only two military police officers were convicted, while 142 law enforcement agents who took part in the deadly operation were acquitted. The governor of the state and the security secretary at the time, who authorized the massacre, were never brought to justice.

Other states with alarming rates are Maranhão, with 168 reported deaths in the period, but only 3.5 percent of court decisions, and Rondônia, where 153 people were killed in land conflicts, but only two cases made it to trial (1.3 percent). In Bahia, only two cases were brought before a judge in 33 years, while the state reported 130 rural murders.

The CPT survey also showed that, among the cases that actually made it to trial in the 1985-2018 period, 34 people who ordered crimes and 101 contract killers were convicted, while 16 defendants accused of ordering murders and 204 hitmen were acquitted.

Edition: João Paulo Soares | Translated by Aline Scátola