Brazil: After a year of impunity, authorities must bring Marielle Franco’s killers to justice
One year on from the killing of the human rights defender and Rio de Janeiro city councillor Marielle Franco and her driver Anderson Gomes, Brazilian authorities are still failing to provide their families and society with adequate answers, and their inability to identify those responsible and bring them to justice continues to put other human rights defenders at risk, said Amnesty International today.
“After a year of investigation, the Brazilian authorities’ alarming inability to solve the killing of Marielle Franco sends a message that attacks against human rights defenders will go unpunished,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International.
“The authorities that took office following last year’s elections must bring all those responsible for ordering and carrying out the killing to justice and show that attacks of this nature will not be tolerated in Brazil.”
Marielle Franco and Anderson Gomes were shot dead while driving through Rio de Janeiro’s Estacio neighbourhood on the night of 14 March 2018. Information disclosed by the authorities and uncovered by the press has raised concerns that investigators may not have followed the due process and could have been influenced by external interference.
Amnesty International calls on the Brazilian authorities to respect due process and appoint an independent and external team of experts to monitor the investigation and examine any allegations of negligence, wrongdoing or undue interference. The authorities must also take all necessary measures to guarantee the safety of the witnesses of the killing and the families of Marielle Franco and Anderson Gomes, in accordance with their specific needs and wishes.
“A year on from Marielle Franco’s death, it’s clear that this was a carefully planned and executed targeted killing in which state agents likely participated at some level,” said Jurema Werneck, executive director of Amnesty International Brazil.
“The Brazilian authorities must guarantee the rights to truth, justice and reparation for the families of Marielle Franco and Anderson Gomes. We will not rest until justice is done.”
Brazil is one of the world’s deadliest countries for human rights defenders. As Amnesty International has previously documented, the Brazilian authorities have a very poor track record of investigating killings of human rights defenders and killings that involve police officers.
Amnesty International has mobilized hundreds of thousands of people around the world in the past year to demand justice for Marielle. Margaret Huang, executive director of Amnesty International USA, is visiting Brazil from 11 to 14 March to mark the anniversary and remind the Brazilian authorities that the world is watching and will not rest until the case is solved.
Amnesty International encourages the international community, including foreign governments and intergovernmental organizations, to reach out to the Brazilian authorities and urge them to identify all those responsible for ordering and carrying out the killing and bring them to justice in a fair trial that meets international standards.
Known for defending the human rights of young black people, women, favela residents and LGBTI people, Marielle – herself a black bisexual woman born in a favela – was elected a Rio de Janeiro city councillor in 2016. She had previously served on Rio de Janeiro’s State Human Rights Commission from 2006 to 2016, where she frequently spoke out about extrajudicial executions and other human rights violations committed by police officers and state security forces. Shortly before she was killed, Marielle was appointed to monitor the federal intervention into public security in Rio de Janeiro.
The authorities investigating Marielle’s death have neither confirmed or denied that they are following lines of investigation reported by the media regarding the possible involvement in of military police officers, local officials, militia groups or a group of professional hitmen known as the “crime office”.
Reports in the press suggest the murder weapon was a HK-MP5 submachinegun, a model whose use in Brazil is restricted to security and military personnel and certain criminal justice officials. Several weapons of this model that were registered in the Rio de Janeiro civil police inventory in 2011 subsequently disappeared, while the ammunition used in the crime allegedly belonged to a federal police batch that went missing a few years ago.
Witnesses said that both Marielle’s car and that of her killers were moving when the shots were fired. The precision of the shots, which hit Marielle several times in the head, indicate that the shooter had undergone specialist training. Surveillance cameras at the exact scene of the crime were switched off one or two days before. Other surveillance footage shows two cars cameras following Marielle on the night of her killing. Local media reported that their number plates were false.
Throughout the investigation, forensic experts have made public allegations of negligence, improper procedures and violations of due process. These include allegations that there was no X-ray examination of the bodies during the autopsy, the car that they were killed in was stored improperly, and eyewitnesses to the crime were not called to make statements.
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Brazil: Failure to identify Marielle Franco’s killers after six months is unacceptable (News, 14 September 2018)
Brazil: Lack of progress in Marielle Franco investigation highlights failings of criminal justice system (News, 12 July, 2018)
Brazil: Authorities must bring all those responsible for Marielle Franco’s death to justice (News, 13 April 2018)