Demanding justice after the assassination of Afro-Brazilian human rights defender Marielle Franco and her driver

“Another murder of a young man…Matheus Melo was leaving church. How many more will have to die for this war to end?” – Marielle Franco in what would be one of her last tweets

Marielle Franco was elected to the City Council in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 with more than 46,000 votes. She was the only black female and one of seven women on the 51-seat council. A black, LGBT woman raised in one of Rio’s poorest and most violent slums, the Maré complex, Franco was a well-known human rights defender and activist, a powerful and vocal critic of police brutality, and a passionate advocate for black women in Brazil. She was considered by many a political rising star in Brazil.

At just 38 years old, Franco’s bright future was brutally cut short on March 14th when nine shots were fired at the car she was in on her way home from an event on black women’s rights and social justice. Her driver was also murdered in the shooting.

“What happened is a scary fact and is another example of the dangers that human rights defenders face in Brazil. As a member of the Rio de Janeiro State Human Rights Commission, Marielle worked tirelessly to defend the rights of black and young women in favelas and other marginalized communities,” said Jurema Werneck, executive director of Amnesty International Brazil and Global Fund for Women Board Member, in a statement posted by Amnesty International Brazil. Jurema has also published this powerful op-ed in Huffington Post to ensure Marielle’s murder does not go unpunished. “The Brazilian authorities must ensure a prompt, thorough and impartial investigation into this tragic assassination. The state must protect witnesses and survivors and bring the guilty parties to justice. The authorities cannot let human rights defenders be killed and their killers go unpunished.”

Global Fund for Women joins the movement of Brazilian women and women’s groups expressing outrage after the shocking assassination of Marielle Franco. We stand in solidarity with our Brazilian partners, grantees, and sisters as well as family and friends who are mourning the loss of a fearless leader, friend, and mother. And we join the tens of thousands of Brazilians who have taken to the streets throughout Brazil to mourn Franco.

We demand justice and accountability for those responsible for taking Franco’s life and the life of her driver. We demand that the investigation into her murder be carried out quickly, with heightened transparency, and by an independent authority without ties to the Brazilian government. We echo the statement of the UN Human Rights Office in saying, “Strenuous efforts must be made to identify those responsible and bring them before the courts.”

“The nine shots that took Marielle from us were against all women, directly against the black people, the communities of Rio de Janeiro and the human rights defenders who fight to end the genocide of the black population in Brazil and for gender equity,” shared ELAS Fund, Brazil’s only women’s fund and a close Global Fund for Women partner, in a solidarity statement.

Franco was outspoken against Brazilian President Michel Temer’s decision to send military troops into Rio—a decision that has led to escalating violence and is a dangerous ploy for militarization of public security in the city. Two weeks before her murder, Franco was appointed rapporteur of a special committee of the city to monitor this current militarization of public security in Rio.

”Not only was Marielle an activist but she was a black activist. Black women’s struggles in Brazil have been under the radar for a long time,” said Musimbi Kanyoro, Global Fund for Women’s President and CEO. “But today, they speak out in the name of their race, they organize and create consciousness about their marginalization. We did not have to wait for Ms. Franco’s death to hear their voices.”

Franco’s fate is one all too familiar for women human rights defenders around the world who dare to speak up for justice and equality, and to speak against governments, corporations, and others in power. We recognize the critical, courageous work of women human rights defenders who are putting their lives at risk through their activism, and support local, national, and regional initiatives advancing the safety and security of defenders.

Please join us as we continue to raise our voices and call for international solidarity until there is #JusticaParaMarielle. Please share using #JusticaParaMarielle and #MariellePresente. Take action by signing Amnesty International Brazil’s petition demanding a thorough investigation and prosecution for those responsible.

Let us all try to carry forward Marielle’s formidable legacy of resistance, resilience, and activism for all.

[Photo: AP Photo/Leo Correa. People shout slogans during a protest against the murder of city councillor Marielle Franco in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, March 16, 2018.]