The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, urged the Brazilian authorities to take immediate action to provide judges, magistrates, prosecutors, public defenders and lawyers with effective and adequate measures of protection.
“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,” Ms. Knaul stressed.
The human rights expert’s pressing appeal comes after the recent assassination of Judge Patrícia Lourival Acioli, known for her fight against criminal gangs, death squads and corrupt police officers, and reports of mounting deaths threats against numerous judges.
“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, a Brazilian judge herself.
“The National Council for Justice has reported at least 69 threatened judges all over the country, while studies from the Justice Ministry have reported that more than 90 judges are on a ‘most wanted’ death list.”
The UN Special Rapporteur underscored that “the Government of Brazil has an international obligation to adequately protect judges and the judiciary against threats, intimidation, harassment and attacks, and to guarantee their security in the law,” as established by the United Nations Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary. “This is an essential aspect of respect for the rule of law and democracy.”
Gabriela Knaul took up her functions as UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers on 1 August 2009. In that capacity, she acts independently from any Government or organization. Ms. Knaul has a long-standing experience as a judge in Brazil and is an expert in criminal justice and the administration of judicial systems.