October 10, 2001

Brazilian boy killed, cult suspected

                 RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (Reuters) -- A Brazilian boy was castrated and
                 killed this week, victim of what may be a black magic cult that has claimed
                 20 lives and spurred human rights groups to seek intervention from the
                 Organization of American States.

                 Like the 19 other boys who were mysteriously killed over the last decade, Welson
                 Frazao Serra, 13, was emasculated and his body was abandoned in the vegetation
                 around the northeastern city of Sao Luiz, Joisiane Gamba, a lawyer for a local
                 children's defense group, said Wednesday.

                 All the victims were boys between the ages of 9 and 14 from poor slums. Many of
                 them were sexually assaulted, black ribbons and candle wax were found near some
                 of the bodies and most were killed between the months of September and
                 December when black magic rituals are said to be more common.

                 "The signs are that this is not the work of a single criminal but of a group, and, at
                 least in most of the cases, it could be a black magic cult," Gamba said.

                 State police have failed to properly investigate the crimes, human rights groups say,
                 prompting them to request the intervention of the OAS Inter-American Human
                 Rights Commission.

                 "Probably because they are poor, these families have not had access to justice,"
                 Gamba said, adding that no one has been convicted of the crimes that started in
                 1991 and many of the cases have been closed.

                 "The absolute impunity here is worrisome for the entire community and now we
                 have another victim," she said.

                 Gamba and the human rights group Global Justice sent a petition to the OAS
                 commission in July requesting they open a case against the Brazilian government
                 that would force the cases to be reopened, provide compensation for the families
                 and heighten security for the community.

                 Last month, the commission accepted the petition and gave the Brazilian
                 government two months to defend itself.

                 With the latest death, the groups also sent a letter this week to the Justice Ministry
                 asking federal officials to intervene in the state police investigations or lend
                 technical assistance.

                 "The investigation has been abysmal despite the gravity of the cases and the proof
                 is we have 20 corpses and no convictions," said James Cavallaro, director of the
                 Global Justice human rights group and co-petitioner on the OAS complaint.

                  Copyright 2001 Reuters.