We are working closely with community media groups, activist collectives and human rights organizations to use video to demand accountability for police violence in Brazil. Though official statistics account for 2,000 people killed by Brazilian police each year, many believe the actual number is significantly higher due to unreliable/inexistent reporting.
Brazil has one of the world’s highest homicide rates – roughly 50,000 a year – and most victims are young (aged 15-29) and of color (77% AfroBrazilians). But homicides are rarely investigated and only 5-8% of cases are resolved. Impunity is rampant, even more so for the police.
In recent years, cellphones have captured many of these abuses on camera, quickly becoming a democratizing force for the collection of evidence from the bottom-up while serving as a shield to counter false police accounts.
The massive protests that erupted across Brazil in 2013 showcased this potential, with hundreds of videos flooding YouTube in real time, some even helping free protesters from wrongful accusations. WITNESS collaborated with nine Brazilian organizations in 2014 to take some of those images to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, weaving together several citizen-shot clips into a video screened at a special hearing on police violence during protests.
Even still, video has yet to realize its full potential to leverage justice – many don’t lead to concrete impact because the context around them is hard to decipher or because they weren’t filmed, stored or shared in the most effective and safe manner.
WITNESS is working to help bridge this gap through collaborations with partners and allies that include traditional rights groups like Article 19 and Conectas to legal collectives like Advogados Ativistas and independent media networks like A Nova Democracia and Coletivo Papo Reto.
Our work is deeply collaborative and designed to respond to local needs as they arise – in mid-2014, for example, WITNESS partnered with Advogados Ativistas and Article 19 to create a guide on How to Film Police Violence During Protests, which was widely shared in the lead up to the 2014 World Cup.
Since then, WITNESS has helped lead trainings, convenings and other activities to strengthen the impact of video in the fight for justice and accountability.