A United Nations human rights expert today called on Brazilian authorities to take immediate steps to better protect the country’s judges, magistrates, prosecutors, public defenders and other lawyers in the wake of the recent assassination of a high-profile judge.
Gabriela Knaul, the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, issued a statement a week after Judge Patrícia Lourival Acioli was shot dead by unknown gunmen at her home near Rio de Janeiro.
Judge Acioli was renowned for her fight against criminal gangs, death squads and corrupt police officers.
“The assassination of Judge Acioli is evidence of the existence of a pervasive and serious problem regarding the protection of judges in Brazil,” said Ms. Knaul, who is herself a judge in Brazil.
“The National Council for Justice has reported at least 69 threatened judges all over the country, while studies from the [Brazilian] justice ministry have reported that more than 90 judges are on a ‘most wanted’ death list.”
In her statement Ms. Knaul stressed that “it is high time for the Government to set up a national system of protection in order to allow judges to discharge their functions without fear for their life, integrity and security, and that of their families.”
She noted that Brazil’s Government is obliged under international law to adequately protect the judiciary against threats, intimidation, harassment and attacks.
Since August 2009, Ms. Knaul has served – in an independent and unpaid capacity – as UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers. She reports to the Human Rights Council in Geneva.