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


GENEVA (26 March 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”.

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.


The experts: Ms. Dubravka Šimonović, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences; Ms. Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Ms. E. Tendayi Achiume, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intoleranceMr. Michal Balcerzak, Chairperson of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent; Mr. Victor Madrigal-Borloz, Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity; Ms. Alda Facio, Chairperson of the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice; Mr. Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights; Mr. Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Mr. Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights; Ms Leilani Farha, Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context.

The Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
For more information and media requests, please contact: Thibaut Guillet (+41 22 917 9674 / tguillet@ohchr.org), Sara Cavallo (+41 22 917 99 42 /scavallo@ohchr.org) or write to vaw@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts please contact
Jeremy Laurence, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+41 22 917 9383 / jlaurence@ohchr.org)

This year, 2018, is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN on 10 December 1948. The Universal Declaration – translated into a world record 500 languages – is rooted in the principle that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” It remains relevant to everyone, every day. In honour of the 70th anniversary of this extraordinarily influential document, and to prevent its vital principles from being eroded, we are urging people everywhere to Stand Up for Human Rights: www.standup4humanrights.org.