Brazil: UN experts alarmed by killing of Rio human rights defender who decried military intervention

GENEVA March 26, 2018 – UN human rights experts said the killing of prominent Afro-Brazilian human rights defender Marielle Franco who decried the military’s use of force in Rio de Janeiro was deeply alarming.

Ms Marielle Franco and her driver, Mr Anderson Pedro Gomes, were shot dead in their car on 14 March while they were returning from a public event called “Young Black Women Moving Structures”.

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Ms Franco was a fierce critic of the Decree of 16 February that authorizes federal intervention on matters of public order in Rio.

“Her killing is alarming as it clearly aims to intimidate all those fighting for human rights and the rule of law in Brazil,” said the experts.

“We urge the Brazilian authorities to use this tragic moment to thoroughly revisit their choices in the promotion of public security and, particularly, to substantially step up the protection of human rights defenders.”

As a city councillor, Ms Franco was supposed to integrate a task force to monitor security interventions in Rio. According to information received by the experts, a few days before the killing, Ms Franco denounced military police’s use of force in the favela of Acari in the Northern region of the city of Rio de Janeiro.

Last weekend, eight people reportedly died in a police operation in a Rio favela. “Public security should never be used at the expense of human rights,” said the experts. “Repressive responses targeting and marginalizing the poor and Afro Brazilians are unacceptable and counter-productive”.

“We urge the authorities to put an end to the violence, to publicly reaffirm the important and legitimate role of women’s rights defenders and condemn violence and discrimination against them,” they added.

The experts called for a prompt and impartial investigation into the killings while noting that Ms. Franco’s execution was an alarming symptom of the levels of violence in Brazil today.

“Ms Franco was a remarkable human rights defender. She defended the rights of people of African descent, LGBTI, women and young people living in the poorest slums in Rio. She will be remembered as a symbol of resistance for historically marginalized communities in Brazil,” they concluded.