Press Release

IACHR Repudiates Murder of Councilor and Defender of Human Rights in Brazil

March 16, 2018

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Washington D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) repudiates the murder of Marielle Franco, a recognized human rights defender, member of Rio de Janeiro City Council, and of her driver, Anderson Pedro Gomes, on March 14, 2018 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

According to available public information, Marielle Franco was murdered on the night of March 14, when she was returning from a public event with Afro-descendant women defenders. At the time of the crime, Marielle Franco was traveling in a car with one advisor who was injured and survived, while her driver was hit by gunshots and died instantly. Marielle Franco was shot four times in the head out of nine shots directed towards the rear window of the car which, according to public statements of the police authorities, would generate the hypothesis that it was a premeditated crime.

Elected in 2016, Marielle Franco worked in Rio de Janeiro in defense of the rights of Afro-descendant women and young people living in peripheral areas of the city. During her tenure, she filed several complaints on the excessive use of force by the police and institutional racism in the justice system. According to the information publicly available, days before being assassinated, she would have filed complaints on the violent action of the military police in the favela of Acari in the Northern region of the city of Rio de Janeiro. Franco had also been named rapporteur of the Council created to oversee police operations under the federal intervention authorized by a presidential decree on which the IACHR recently expressed its deep concern.

The Brazilian State has the obligation to investigate this regrettable assassination in a serious, prompt, exhaustive, independent and impartial manner, and to punish the intellectual and material perpetrators of such crime. Likewise, it must include lines of investigation  which analyze the hypothesis that this crime had as a motive her activities as a woman, Afro-descendant, councilor and human right defender. The IACHR emphasizes the importance that such investigations guarantee access to justice by her family, providing them with relevant information and guaranteeing their right to be heard and to participate in all stages of the process.

Acts of violence and other attacks against human rights defenders not only affect the guarantees of every human being, but they undermine the fundamental role that they play in society. These acts also harm all of those people for whom they work, leaving them in a state of greater vulnerability, and even defenseless. The Commission also recalls that the work of human rights defenders is essential for the development of a solid democracy and the consolidation of the rule of law. The IACHR urges the Brazilian State to immediately and urgently adopt all necessary measures to guarantee the right to life, integrity and safety of human rights defenders. To that end, the State must effectively implement its National Program for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 052/18