Marielle Franco in Rio de Janeiro.

© Mídia Ninja

(Rio de Janeiro) – Brazilian authorities should ensure a prompt, thorough, and independent investigation into the killing of a human rights defender and her driver in Rio de Janeiro, Human Rights Watch said today.

Marielle Franco, 38, a Rio de Janeiro City Council member, and her driver, Anderson Pedro Gomes, 39, were gunned down on March 14, 2018, after a car pulled alongside theirs and opened fire. A press officer who worked for Franco who was sitting in the back seat was injured.

“Marielle was an outspoken and courageous advocate for victims of police abuse and a tireless defender of the rights of women and Afro-Brazilians,” said Maria Laura Canineu, Brazil director at Human Rights Watch. “Brazilian authorities need to respond decisively by identifying those responsible for the killing of Marielle and Anderson, and bringing them to justice.”

Franco was born and raised in one of Rio’s impoverished communities, where she became an activist. In the last few days, she had posted several tweets about killings by the police in Rio de Janeiro.

Franco was elected to the city council in 2016 and was the president of the women’s commission. She was recently appointed rapporteur of a municipal commission to monitor the federal intervention in policing Rio de Janeiro. President Michel Temer ordered that intervention in February, handing over control of the state police and prisons to the armed forces.

The responsibility for investigating the killings lies with Rio de Janeiro’s civil police and, if requested, with the federal police. The army general in charge of the federal intervention in Rio should guarantee investigators the necessary resources and independence to identify the murderers, Human Rights Watch said.

Rio de Janeiro’s Attorney General Eduardo Gussem should immediately call on the Group of Specialized Action Public Security (GAESP, in Portuguese), which is responsible for ensuring thorough investigations by police, to participate in the investigation.

“The climate of near total impunity in Rio de Janeiro needs to end once and for all,” Canineu said. “Marielle and Anderson are the latest victims of a security system that has long failed to stop violence, or to ensure justice for the victims.”