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Brazilian activists urge crackdown on 'death squads'

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• A version of this post ran on the author's site, Insightcrime.com. The views expressed are the author's own.

A top human rights official in Brazil's government said that Congress should push through a bill which makes contract killings a federal crime, after two journalists were shot to death in less than a week.

Maria do Rosario, head of the office of the President's main human rights commission, said Congress should pass a bill allowing the federal government to investigate and prosecute contract killings. The bill would also increase the penalties for murders committed by militias and death squads, including increasing jail time for militia members from four to eight years, Agencia Brazil reports (in Portuguese).

The minister said that the deaths of two journalists the past week should prompt Congress to pass the bill quickly. Online journalist Mário Randolfo Marques Lopes was shot and killed alongside his wife on Feb. 8 in Rio de Janeiro state. Four days later Paulo Cardoso Rodrigues, editor-in-chief of the Jornal de Praca, was killed in the state of Matto Grosso do Sul near the border with Paraguay. In both cases, police said the deaths appeared to be politically motivated.

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