Thu Jan 12, 2017 06:54PM
Police officers stand guard at the entrance of Desembargador Raimundo Vidal Pessoa public jail in Brazil on January 8, 2017, after six inmates were killed during a rebellion. (Photo by AFP)
Police officers stand guard at the entrance of Desembargador Raimundo Vidal Pessoa public jail in Brazil on January 8, 2017, after six inmates were killed during a rebellion. (Photo by AFP)

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has criticized the Brazilian police for its excessive use of force against people while criticizing overcrowded prisons across the country which the rights group said have exposed inmates to violent gangs.

HRW said in its 2017 world report published on Thursday that police in Brazil torture and illegally kill thousands of people every year.

“Torture and extrajudicial killings by police contribute to a cycle of violence in Brazil, undermining public security and endangering the lives of police officers,” said HRW, adding that police officers killed at least 3,345 people in Brazil in 2015, a six percent rise from 2014 and a 52 percent surge from 2013.

“While some police killings result from legitimate use of force, others are extrajudicial executions,” said the rights group, warning that Brazilian citizens are becoming increasingly scared off from cooperating with police to help them catch criminals.

HRW also slammed Brazil’s inability to properly manage the prison population, saying “inhumane conditions in prisons and detention centers” were an “urgent problem.”

Relatives wait for information following a riot that ended with at least four prisoners killed inside Desembargador Raimundo Vidal Pessoa Public Jail in Brazil on January 8, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Citing official data from the Brazilian government, the New York-based group said that prison facilities were packed with 67 percent more inmates than they were designed to hold.

“Overcrowding and understaffing make it impossible for prison authorities to maintain control within many facilities, leaving detainees vulnerable to violence and gang activity," said the HRW report, adding, “Torture and mistreatment of detainees, including children, is an acute problem.”

A series of prison riots erupted in Brazil last week, which resulted in the deaths of around 100 inmates. Authorities blamed drug gangs for the massacres, which involved many inmates beheaded and dismembered.

President Michel Temer said after the riots that his government would build at least one new prison in each of Brazil's 26 states, a massive project which he said would cost the country around $250 million.