Rights groups seek justice for child victims of police violence at Rio 2016

Children playing on the street in Rocinha, Rio de Janeiro, the largest favela in Brazil. (Credit: Eflon/Flickr)

Weeks after the end of the Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro, child rights advocates are calling on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to compensate child victims of police violence for the abuses made against them.

Police violence against children has been well documented months before the start of the summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Last week, children’s rights organization Terre des Hommes, Amnesty International and Nosso Jogo Network met with the IOC to present a report that detailed a range of human rights violations surrounding the Olympics.

“Our research reveals human rights violations of youth and children in Rio, ranging from police killings, harsh police repression of protests and an alarming increase of police violence against adolescents in street situation,” said Andrea Florence, author of the report, in a statement.

The report detailed a 103 percent increase in police killings compared to 2015 and exposed the use of “street cleaning operationswhere Rio’s municipal government removed homeless or street-connected youths from their communities. Interviews conducted by Terre des Hommes reveal that many of these youths were taken to juvenile detention centers without having been convicted of any serious crime, causing extensive overcrowding in detention centers this year. As a result of these conditions, two youths died and seven suffered severe burns when a fire broke out in a cell on the day of the Olympic opening ceremony.

The report also found that 22,000 families were evicted from their homes between 2009 and 2015 to clear space for the Olympics. Many were moved to a government social housing program, more than half of which were at one point controlled by militia gangs. As a result, thousands of children were, and still are, displaced and left without access to education, health care and other social services.

With attention now shifting toward the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 and other major sporting events, human rights organizations are pressuring the IOC to bring justice to the perpetrators of the crimes found in the report and work to prevent similar violations in the future.

“We call upon the IOC to put in place all measures necessary to avoid repeating the same pattern of violations we have seen in Rio,” Florence said. “Only then will the Games … have a chance to create a better world for generations to come.”

According to Terre de Hommes, the IOC listened to the rights groups and agreed to consider the report.

“Where cases are identified – and clearly related to the staging of the Olympic Games – the IOC has a long-standing commitment to follow-up on those issues,” the IOC said to BBC Sport. “The IOC can only act on issues that are directly linked to the organization of the Olympic Games.”

The committee also cited a “number of instances” relating to the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia – presumably doping allegations against Russian athletes – which were followed up with the local authorities. However, these allegations weren’t formally addressed by the IOC until this July, concerning rights advocates who say there is no time to spare in helping the children of Rio and protecting those of future Olympic host cities.

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Lisa Nikolau

Lisa Nikolau is a Madrid-based reporter for Humanosphere, covering gender equality, indigenous rights and poverty in Latin America and worldwide. Find her on Twitter at @lisanikolau, email lisa.nikolau@humanosphere.org or see her latest work at www.lisanikolau.com