(Washington) The United States on Friday called for accountability for the double murder of a British journalist and a top expert on indigenous peoples in the Brazilian Amazon, while hailing rainforest defenders.
Updated yesterday at 4:30pm.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price offered condolences to the family of journalist Dom Phillips and those of his guide and expert Bruno Pereira, saying they were “murdered because of their support for the preservation of the rainforest and the indigenous people who live there.”
“We demand accountability and justice. We must step up our efforts to protect environmentalists and journalists together,” he said on Twitter.
The double murder was confirmed days after US President Joe Biden met his Brazilian counterpart Jair Bolsonaro for the first time.
The expert opinion on human remains found in the Amazon confirmed they were indeed those of British journalist Dom Phillips, who disappeared on June 5 accompanied by Brazilian expert Bruno Pereira, federal police investigating the double murder said on Friday.
“This confirmation was possible thanks to an odontological examination” of the samples analyzed in a laboratory in Brasilia, the police said in a press release.
“Extensive identification work continues to better understand the cause of death, the dynamics of the crime and the concealment of the bodies,” she added.
Earlier in the day, police said the information available to them at this stage of the investigation led them to believe “that the killers acted alone, with no sponsor, without any criminal organization behind the killings.”
The remains of Dom Phillips were found on Wednesday at the location given by one of the two arrested suspects, fisherman Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira, known as “Pelado”, who confessed to burying the bodies the day before .
The Union of Indigenous Peoples of the Javari Valley (Univaja), whose members actively participated in the search, refuted the police version on Friday.
“There are not just two killers, but an organized group that planned the crime down to the last detail,” Univaja said in a statement.
The disappearance of the two men has revived criticism of the latter, accused of having encouraged invasions of Indian lands with his speeches in favor of exploiting the resources of the world’s largest tropical forest.
In an interview, the Brazilian head of state appeared to accuse the journalist and expert of making an “irresponsible” trip to an area where the former was “frowned upon”.
Police investigating the deaths of Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira said Friday that the double murder had “no sponsorship” from a “criminal organization,” a version disputed by an Indigenous Peoples’ Association.
Former US President Donald Trump’s ally Jair Bolsonaro nonetheless appeared cheerful after his meeting with Joe Biden on the sidelines of the Americas summit last week.
During the meeting, Joe Biden expressed his concerns about climate change and deforestation in the Amazon.