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U.N. official calls Brazil cops murderers

UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 15 (UPI) -- Police in Brazil routinely murder people on behalf of drug gangs, a U.N. human rights official charged Monday.

The report by Philip Alston, the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, says police officers are responsible for a significant fraction of the 48,000 slayings in Brazil annually. On-duty officers routinely use deadly violence and a large number of off-duty officers play a role in death squads and other organized crime activities, Alston said.

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"In Rio de Janeiro, the police kill three people everyday," Alston alleged. "They are responsible for one out of every five killings."

He said the fact-finding mission he embarked on last year including meetings with police commanders, senior government ministers, officials of non-governmental organizations and more than 40 witnesses to human rights abuses.

Alston was highly critical of the police tactic of using hundreds of officers in assaults on gang-controlled neighborhoods. He said those operations "hurt ordinary people far more than then hurt the drug gangs."

Alston said there is little public outcry because of widespread skepticism about law enforcement.

"A remarkable number of police lead double lives," said Alston, "While on duty, they fight the drug gangs, but on their days off, they work as foot soldiers of organized crime."

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Alston said while the institutions for holding police accountable are broken, they are not beyond repair, and hopes his report will lead to reforms.

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