Brazil: Lack of progress in Marielle Franco investigation highlights failings of criminal justice system

The lack of progress in the investigation into the killing of the human rights defender and Rio de Janeiro city councilor Marielle Franco and her driver Anderson Gomes on 14 March raises questions about the credibility of Brazil’s criminal justice system, Amnesty International said today, ahead of the four-month anniversary of their deaths.

“After four months, the fact that Marielle Franco’s killing remains unsolved is a testament to the inefficacy and seeming unwillingness of the institutions in the Brazilian criminal justice system to solve the case. There’s an urgent need for an external, independent mechanism to monitor the proceedings,” said Jurema Werneck, Amnesty International’s Brazil director.

“Secrecy and confidentiality designed to ensure the efficacy of the investigation cannot serve as a smokescreen for the silence from authorities responsible for clarifying the facts around Marielle’s killing. We must identify and hold accountable not only those who fired the shots, but also those who ordered the killing, as well as determining the motive for the crime.”

After four months, the fact that Marielle Franco’s killing remains unsolved is a testament to the inefficacy and seeming unwillingness of the institutions in the Brazilian criminal justice system to solve the case.
Jurema Werneck, Brazil director at Amnesty International

The investigation has yet to clarify media reports that security cameras aimed at the scene of the crime were turned off on the eve of the shooting, and that the bullets fired were part of a batch sold to Brazil’s federal police. The murder weapon was reportedly a submachine gun used exclusively by security forces, and weapons of the same model had been reported missing from the civil police’s arsenal. The manner in which the killing was carried out and the precision of the shots fired also suggest that some of the perpetrators may have had specialized training.

The Brazilian press reported that President Michel Temer held a meeting in May with Public Security Minister Raul Jungmann and General Walter Braga Netto, the official in charge of the military intervention into Rio de Janeiro’s public security, in which they allegedly agreed upon a pact of silence around the case in order to support the civil police’s homicide division, which is leading the investigation.

“The failure to solve this case points to the Brazilian state’s lack of commitment to human rights defenders. The fact that such a high-profile human rights defender can be killed without a decisive response from the authorities puts others in danger,” Werneck added.

“In life, Marielle always advocated for justice and fought against state violence. Pushing for this crime to be solved is a way of keeping her fight for human rights, her legacy, and her memory alive.”

Marielle Franco, human rights defender

Born and raised in Rio’s Maré favela, Marielle was a sociologist with a master’s degree in public administration, who began working in human rights in 2000 after a friend was killed in a shootout in their neighborhood. In 2007, she joined the Rio state legislature’s Commission for the Defence of Human Rights and Citizenship.

In life, Marielle always advocated for justice and fought against state violence. Pushing for this crime to be solved is a way of keeping her fight for human rights, her legacy, and her memory alive.
Jurema Werneck, Brazil director at Amnesty International

During a decade on the Commission, Marielle supported the families of homicide victims and those of police officers killed in the line of duty, as well as working on other issues such as the right to adequate housing. In 2016, she was elected to the city council with the fifth-highest total of votes in the municipality. As a councillor, she advocated for women, LGBTI people and the black youth of the favelas.

Shortly before she was killed, Marielle was named the rapporteur on the city council commission to monitor the federal intervention into Rio’s public security. She opposed the intervention and the confrontational tactics used by security forces, frequently denounced human rights violations, and maintained close ties with social movements.

Since 14 March, Amnesty International has repeatedly demanded that the authorities ensure a prompt, thorough, impartial and independent investigation into the killing of Marielle and Anderson.

In the past four months, more than 100,000 people from countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Italy, Peru, Portugal, Spain and Sweden have signed a petition calling for an adequate investigation and justice for Marielle and Anderson. Amnesty International also organized three demonstrations outside the homicide division of Rio’s civil police, the state department of public security and the Rio state public prosecutor’s office.

Sign the petition: https://anistia.org.br/entre-em-acao/email/urgent-justice-marielle/

For more information or to request an interview, contact Andrea Florence: +55 219 7133 0505, andrea.florence@anistia.org.br