Brazil: Shooting of lawyer, Ricardo Gama | Letter

Re: Shooting of lawyer, Ricardo Gama

To: President of the Federative Republic of Brazil, Dilma Vana Rousseff & Martha Rocha, Civil Police

From: Vicheka Lay, LRWC Member

Date: 2011-04-01

LRWC was informed that on March 24, 2011, Brazilian lawyer and blogger Ricardo Gama was shot on a Rio de Janeiro street. Gama, 40, was in the Rio neighborhood of Copacabana when individuals in a black car shot him three times, in the head, neck and shoulder. Onlookers went to his aid and he was rushed to a hospital where the news website communiqué-se quoted doctors are saying his life was no longer in danger but he had partially lost sight in one eye.

LRWC is gravely concerned about Gama’s capacity to effectively carry on with his profession after this attack, as well as the personal and professional safety of other members of the legal profession in Brazil. LWRC is also concerned that no proper investigation of the shooting is contemplated.

LRWC is aware of reports suggesting that the shooting may have been carried out as a means of silencing government criticism from Gama and others. We understand that Mr. Gama’s blog airs criticisms –sometimes scathing—of Rio governor Sergio Cabral, the City’s mayor, Eduardo Paes and other local officials.

LRWC asks that the Brazilian government to adhere to its international law obligations to protect the right of Mr. Gama and others to advocate for improved human rights implementation and enforcement by publicly criticizing government action, engaging in debate and disseminating information and analyses on human rights issues. The Declaration of Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, obliges Brazil to adopt such measures as are necessary to guarantee the life and physical safety of Gama and others engaged in human rights advocacy. This duty arises from Brazil’s membership in both the United Nations and the Organization of American States.

Brazil, as a member of the United Nations General Assembly, is bound the “Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers”, welcomed by the UN General Assembly in 1990. Article 16 states that “government shall ensure that lawyers are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference”.

Article 17, furthermore, states that

“Where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities”.

LRWC respectfully urges the Brazilian government to act in accordance with the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the international and regional pacts and covenants ratified by Brazil; and ensure the implementation of the Declaration of Human Rights Defenders adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 8, 1998, in particular article 1 which provides that “every person has the right, individually or collectively, to promote the protection and fulfillment of human rights and fundamental liberties at the national and international levels”.

LRWC therefore requests immediate action to:

1. Ensure the present and future safety of Gama and his family and;

2. Investigate for the perpetrator against this human rights defenders with the goal of indentifying the person(s) responsible and bring them to trial.