After 6 years seeking justice, the families of human rights defender Marielle Franco and her driver Anderson Gomes, as well as Brazilian civil society and the international community received news this morning (March 24th) of the preventive detention of three suspected masterminds of the crime: Domingos Brazão, counsellor of the Rio de Janeiro State Court of Auditors, his brother, Chiquinho Brazão, a Federal Congressman and Rivaldo Barbosa, head of the Rio de Janeiro Civil Police at the time of the murders.

Amnesty International Brazil has been following the case from the beginning and considers that today’s arrests represent an important step forward towards the elucidation of this crime. However, it does not mean that justice has been served. It is alarming that investigations have, so far, identified three former public security agents (two military police officers and a firefighter) as the perpetrators of the crime, and another three public agents as the masterminds.

Information gathered by the authorities suggests that the crime could be linked to the interests of expanding paramilitary groups, such as the militias, in Rio. In this sense, it is important to remember that the emergence and expansion of paramilitary groups is the result, among other factors, of the omission, tolerance and acquiescence of state authorities, as well as the impunity and the failure of state authorities to respond forcefully to deviations in their structures. State responsibility for the emergence and expansion of paramilitary groups has been the subject of emblematic decisions by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR), which, finding the existence of various cases involving links between paramilitary groups and public security agents, has established the following as basic international state duties:

a) the duty to prevent rights violations;

b) the duty to investigate diligently;

c) the duty to hold violations accountable;

d) the duty to provide reparations to victims.

The Brazilian authorities have failed in all these duties in relation to the murders of Marielle and Anderson.

This serious crime was elaborately planned. Several actors were involved in this process. After the murders, we have seen countless failures and attempts to obstruct the investigations over the last six years, many of them carried out by public officials. Everyone must be held accountable.

It is also the duty of the Brazilian state to ensure reparations and non-repetition measures to prevent recurrence. Brazil continues to be one of the most dangerous places for human rights defenders. According to the Global Witness report, between 2018 and 2022, the country rose from 4th to 2nd place in the ranking of countries that kill the most human rights defenders and environmentalists. Between 2019 and 2022, an average of 3 defenders were murdered every month in the country. On March 14, 2024, Amnesty International published the document “Letters on the Table”, which systematizes the 6 main mistakes made by Brazilian authorities, either through actions or omission, in the elucidation of the crime, as well as 6 urgent recommendations aimed at measures of non-repetition. They include: the adoption of efficient mechanisms for external police accountability and the prevention and combat of corruption, the participation of independent international experts’ mechanisms, as well as the reformulation and effective implementation of human rights defenders´ protection programs, which include communicators and environmentalists.

We have continually reiterated that every day of impunity puts the lives of all those committed to defending human rights in Brazil at risk. Although Élcio de Queiroz and Ronnie Lessa were arrested in 2019, only today, at the end of the first quarter of 2024, have the investigations coordinated in collaboration between federal institutions, the Rio de Janeiro Public Prosecutor’s Office, the Federal Police and the Federal Criminal Police, been able to point society towards a conclusion about who were the masterminds behind the assassinations.

Amnesty International renews its public demand for justice. We urge the Brazilian authorities to ensure that all those responsible for the planning and execution of the crime, as well as all those responsible for any deviations and obstructions of the investigations, are brought to justice in fair trials that meet international standards. Marielle’s legacy can only flourish if Brazil becomes a safe space for all those who defend human rights.

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