Brazilian authorities should reform laws to ensure that any punishments meted out to military police officers who transgress legal restrictions on their right to free expression are proportionate to the severity of any offense, Human Rights Watch said. They should ensure that all officers have access to an effective and impartial appeals process.
The authorities should also consider whether it is necessary and appropriate for police officers to be subject to the limits on free expression imposed under the military criminal code and state disciplinary codes, or whether a less restrictive legal framework is called for under international and regional human rights law.
Several reform efforts are under way that could achieve that purpose, and result in more accountable and effective policing. They include bills in Congress to delink the military police from the army and to abolish administrative detention, as well as proposals at the state level to reform disciplinary codes.
The unreasonably harsh punishments handed down to some police officers have a dramatic chilling effect on other members of the force, who often refrain from expressing opinions or suggestions about law enforcement reform for fear of reprisals, said Human Rights Watch.
“Officers can be imprisoned and their careers destroyed for expressing opinions about police reform that their commanders don’t like,” said [HRW's Brazil director Maria Laura] Canineu. “These penalties are out of all proportion to whatever interest the government has in limiting their ability to speak out.”Brazil has 436,000 military police.