Brazil: Ensure prompt and thorough investigation into murder of human rights defender

Protection 3 min read
ARTICLE 19
Brazil: Ensure prompt and thorough investigation into murder of human rights defender - Protection

ARTICLE 19 condemns the 13 March 2018 murder of sociologist and City Councilor Marielle Franco and her driver Anderson Pedro Gomes in Rio de Janeiro. Franco had been an outspoken defender of the rights of poor communities and had publicly criticised alleged violations by state security forces. We urge the Brazilian government to ensure an immediate, thorough and effective investigation into her killing, and ensure the perpetrators and masterminds of the crime are brought to justice.

Franco had recently been named head of a commission instituted by the municipal council of Rio de Janeiro investigating alleged violations committed by the military during the so-called federal intervention in the city (responsibility for state security was handed to the military on 16 February 2018). She had also spoken out on violence committed in recent days by military police officers of the 41st battalion against residents of the Acari community in the Northern Zone of Rio de Janeiro. Last week, two young people were killed in the region under circumstances which are as yet clear.

Born and raised in the Maré Complex, a poor area of Rio de Janeiro, Marielle Franco stood out for her feminist militancy, her part in the black rights movement and also for her role in denouncing violations committed in poor communities, mainly by the police. In the last municipal elections, she had received the fifth highest number of votes of all women council members in the city.

Franco’s killing is part of a wider context of systematic violence against human rights defenders in Brazil, that must be tackled with urgency. Effective and sustainable measures must be taken to safeguard their freedom to operate as activists and speak out on controversial issues.

The Brazilian government, through all its branches, must use all available resources to develop strong policy measures to end violence against human rights defenders, and impunity for these violations.

ARTICLE 19 calls for  a prompt, rigorous and independent investigation by the authorities into the murders of Marielle Franco and Anderson Pedro Gomes, to hold to account not only those who pulled the trigger, but those who masterminded this crime. We express our solidarity with relatives and friends of the two victims for their inestimable loss.