Gunmen storm Brazil prison, policeman killed as 92 inmates escape

This file photo taken on January 18, 2017 shows inmates returning to the pavilions just before the special police battalion invaded the Alcacuz Penitentiary Center to regain control of the penitentiary in Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil. (AFP)
Updated 11 September 2018
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Gunmen storm Brazil prison, policeman killed as 92 inmates escape

  • The population is double the capacity of the nation’s prisons, which in 2016 was estimated to be 368,049 inmates

SAO PAULO: Heavily armed men blew down the front gate of a maximum security prison in northeastern Brazil early Monday and with guns blazing enabled 92 inmates to escape while killing a policeman, authorities said.
Officials said the assault was carried out by about 20 men in four vehicles who fired on watchtowers and used explosives to destroy the front gate of the Romeu Goncalves Abrantes prison.
A policeman shot in the assault later died in hospital. There were no other reports of deaths or injuries.
The prison, a maximum security facility with 680 inmates, is located in Joao Pessoa, the capital of Paraiba state.
“Heavily armed men knocked down the main gate after an exchange of fire with police and penitentiary agents,” the state’s secretariat for prisons said.
By midday, 41 of the 92 escaped prisoners had been recaptured as security forces locked down the state capital, closing schools and medical centers as a precaution.
More than a thousand police officers were mobilized to take part in the search, authorities said.
State prisons secretariat head, Col. Sergio Fonseca de Souza, said the aim of the assault was to free three suspects arrested a year ago for an armed assault using explosives.
Brazil has the world’s third largest prison population, with 726,712 inmates as of June 2016, according to official statistics.
The population is double the capacity of the nation’s prisons, which in 2016 was estimated to be 368,049 inmates.
“The whole of Brazil is going through this situation,” military police Col. Euller Chaves told reporters.
Along with severe overcrowding, Brazil’s prisons are plagued by gang violence, and riots and breakout attempts are not uncommon.

In April, a military-style battle erupted between guards and prisoners aided by outside associates, leaving 21 people dead at a prison in Belem, near the Amazon rainforest.
The attackers in that case also were heavily armed and tried to blow up a wall to help the would-be escapees. One policeman was killed alongside 20 prisoners and their associates.
In February, 18 people were taken hostage during a prison riot near Rio de Janeiro, although guards managed to retake control without anyone being killed.
A month earlier, though, another prison riot in the central state of Goias ended in a blaze that left nine people dead.
A year before that, Brazilian police had to launch a massive manhunt after 184 inmates escaped from two prisons in Amazonas state following a gruesome 17-hour bloodbath between rival gangs that left 56 prisoners dead, many beheaded.
President Michel Temer then vowed to build new prisons in every state to relieve overcrowding.
But another 26 prisoners were killed, most beheaded, in another massacre in a northeastern prison later that same month, after which the government called in the army to help restore order.
The country’s two biggest gangs have been at war, with much of the violence, at times savage, carried out in prisons.
In October 2016, 18 inmates were killed after violence broke out on successive days in two separate jails in the north, with some of the dead decapitated and others burned alive.


Myanmar army should be removed from politics: UN probe

Updated 12 min 53 sec ago
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Myanmar army should be removed from politics: UN probe

YANGON: Myanmar’s powerful army should be removed from politics, UN investigators said Tuesday in the final version of a damning report reiterating calls for top generals to be prosecuted for genocide against the Rohingya Muslim minority.
A brutal military crackdown last year forced more than 700,000 Rohingya to flee over the border to Bangladesh. Demands have mounted for those who waged the campaign to face justice.
The UN’s 444-page probe is the most meticulous breakdown of the violence to date. It says the military’s top leadership should be overhauled and have no further influence over the country’s governance.
Myanmar’s military dominates the Buddhist-majority nation, holding a quarter of seats in parliament and controlling three ministries, making their grip on power firm despite political reforms which began in 2011.
But the report said the country’s civilian leadership “should further pursue the removal of the Tatmadaw from Myanmar’s political life,” referring to the nation’s armed forces.
The UN’s analysis, based on 18 months’ work and more than 850 in-depth interviews, urges the international community to investigate the military top brass for genocide, including commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing.
Myanmar’s army has denied nearly all wrongdoing, insisting its campaign was justified to root out Rohingya insurgents who staged deadly raids on border posts in August 2017.
But the UN team said the military’s tactics had been “consistently and grossly disproportionate to actual security threats.”
The report says an estimated 10,000 people were killed in the crackdown and that was likely a conservative figure.
Investigators said the Tatmadaw should be restructured and the process should begin by replacing the current leadership.
Myanmar only recently emerged from almost a half century of military junta rule and Aung San Suu Kyi’s democratically-elected government remains in a delicate power balance with the generals.
Their presence in parliament gives them an effective veto on constitutional changes, making any transition to full civilian control extremely difficult.
Three key ministries -– home affairs, border and defense –- are also in their hands, giving them carte blanche to conduct security operations with little oversight.
“It is impossible to remove the army out of political life without changing the constitution, and the military have a veto over constitutional changes,” Mark Farmaner, from Burma Campaign UK, told AFP.
The UN team said there were reasonable grounds to believe that the atrocities — including systematic murder, rape, torture and arson -– were committed with the intention of destroying the stateless Rohingya, warranting the charges of genocide.
The mission, created by the UN Human Rights Council in March 2017, did not focus its sights entirely on the army.
It directed specific criticism at Suu Kyi, whose global reputation has been shattered by her failure to speak up for the Rohingya against the military.
While acknowledging that the civilian authorities have little influence over military actions, the report said that their “acts and omissions” had “contributed to the commission of atrocity crimes.”
Pointing to “deeply entrenched” impunity in Myanmar, the investigators said the only chance to obtain accountability was through the international justice system.
They also pointed to failings of the UN’s office within Myanmar, alleging that “quiet diplomacy” was prioritized and that those who tried to push the UN’s Human Rights Up Front approach were “ignored, criticized, sidelined or blocked in these efforts.”
The independent UN team will present its findings to member states of the Human Rights Council in Geneva later on Tuesday, after which Myanmar will have a chance to respond to the allegations.
It also repeated suggestions that crimes against the Rohingya be referred to the International Criminal Court, which concluded in August that it had jurisdiction to investigate even though Myanmar is not a member of the treaty underpinning the tribunal.
Myanmar has dismissed the tribunal’s authority and analysts have pointed to the court’s lack of enforcement powers.
The investigators also recommended an arms embargo and “targeted individual sanctions against those who appear to be most responsible.”