On March 14, Marielle Franco, a Rio de Janeiro city counsellor from Brazil’s Socialist and Freedom Party (PSOL) was killed inside an armoured car after attending an event called “Black Women Changing Power Structures”. Anderson Pedro Gomes, who drove the car, was also killed, and her adviser was injured. The Federal Prosecutor’s Office in Rio says that the evidence, including the highly professional killing, points to a targeted political execution.
Photo by Jeso Carneiro, licenced under CC BY-NC 2.0
The IRCT condemns these killings and laments that they targeted a politician and human rights defender who was a rare representation of Brazilian society in politics: a black bisexual woman from the favelas. One month before the assassination, Brazil’s current President, Michel Temer, ordered a military intervention in the city of Rio de Janeiro, effectively putting the country’s armed forces in charge of Rio's police, fire services and prisons. Franco was publicly opposed to the military intervention, and on February 28, she became head of a commission tasked with monitoring potential abuses associated with it.
“The military was never designed to manage public security. IRCT members in Latin America know too well that this invariably leads to torture and other grave human rights violations. In our work, we are still supporting torture victims to seek justice and rehabilitation following the military dictatorships that marked our continent’s recent history”, said Mariana Lagos, IRCT Executive Committee Member from Argentina.
The main agenda pursued by Franco echoes clamours of Brazilian civil society, which in the country’s last Universal Periodic Review called attention to a spike in occurrences of police violence, with increasingly aggressive tactics and a rising number of extrajudicial killings by state authorities, largely aggravated by a climate of impunity. Franco’s killing sends a message of intimidation to human rights advocates speaking out against extreme securitisation measures and police violence in a context of social and racial inequality.
The IRCT deeply laments that a powerful voice in that debate has been targeted in such a shocking manner and exhorts the Brazilian authorities to carry out a prompt, thorough and effective investigation, and bring those responsible to justice without delay so that Franco’s family and Brazilian society can know the truth about what happened. This should be accompanied by full reparation to the family and immediate action to restore civilian control of public security.