Rio de Janeiro, February 1, 2021 .- The case of Márcia Barbosa de Souza is a femicide case of a 20-year-old woman who was murdered by a powerful congressman from the state of Paraíba in Brazil in 1998. Represented by the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) and the Legal Advisory Office for Popular Organizations (GAJOP) it will be the subject of a public hearing at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (Inter-American Court) on February 3 and 4, after 23 years of seeking justice and truth.
Márcia Barbosa de Souza, a 20-year-old black woman of limited economic resources, fits perfectly, and unfortunately, in the statistics of violent deaths of women. Márcia moved to the capital city of the state of Paraíba in search of work. A few days after being in the city, she received a call at the hotel where she was staying and supposedly went out to meet congressman Aércio Pereira who had offered her a job in a shoe factory.
Hours later Márcia called from the deputy's cell phone, witnesses say that she sounded distressed and worried so one of them warned Marcia's family of the situation and suggested that they go to look for her in the city, however, given the economic conditions of Márcia's family, no one was able to go. Márcia was murdered that night and her body was found the next morning, June 18, 1998, in a vacant lot, beaten and with signs of death by asphyxiation.
On July 21, 1998, the Delegate in charge of the case prepared a report in which he stated that the Deputy of the state of Paraíba Aércio Pereira de Lima would be directly involved in the murder of Márcia Barbosa, however, the Delegate pointed out that the hearing of the Deputy would be difficult due to the prerogatives of parliamentary immunity he had. Thus, the criminal action against the Deputy could only be initiated with the authorization of the Legislative Assembly of the State of Paraíba. This authorization was denied on two occasions.
For the same reason, criminal proceedings against the main defendants in the case were not initiated until March 14, 2003, that is, almost five years after the facts and only when Mr. Aércio Pereira left the position of deputy because he was not reelected. Although on September 27, 2007 he was sentenced to 16 years in prison for the murder and concealment of the body of Márcia Barbosa de Souza, he was never arrested and died 5 months later, at liberty, on February 12, 2007.
The murder of Márcia Barbosa took place in a general context of violence against women in Brazil and in the State of Paraíba, accompanied by the structural impunity existing in this type of facts. Violence against women at the time of the facts was widely tolerated in Brazil, in 1998, the year in which Márcia Barbosa de Souza was murdered, the total number of women victims of homicide in Brazil was 3,503 (Mapa da Violência 2012). The laws adopted by the Brazilian State to address violence against women have not been effective in eliminating this type of gender-based violence. Despite the fact that the country's legislative framework has two decisive pillars in this fight: the enactment in 2006 of Law No. 11,340 to combat and prevent domestic and family violence against women - Maria da Penha Law - which represents one of the most important advances to women's rights in Brazil, and the classification of femicide as one of the qualified forms of homicide, in 2015, currently the rate of femicide in Brazil is the fifth highest in the world according to the Mapa da Violência, Homicide of women in Brazil.
Because Brazil is a country deeply marked by racism, violence disproportionately affects women according to the combination of multiple forms of discrimination based on gender, race, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation and gender identity. This means, for example, that black women, being subjected simultaneously to gender and racial oppression, are the majority of victims in several indicators of violence. In 2015, the Ministry of Justice indicated that black women (black and brown) account for 68.8% of women killed by assaults in Brazil.
"With a rate of 1.6 femicides per 100,000 inhabitants, Latin America is the second most lethal region for women in the world with extremely high levels of impunity (Report published by the United Nations in 2018). The case of Márcia Barbosa which denotes a situation of structural violence against women with gender, race and class connotations can contribute not only to the reparation of the victim's relatives but also to the development of standards of justice and prevention in Brazil and throughout the region." expressed Viviana Krsticevic, Executive Director of CEJIL.
The organizations representing the victims will demonstrate that the Brazilian State violated the right to judicial guarantees and judicial protection by preventing the investigation of the responsibility of Mr. Aércio Pereira de Lima through the figure of parliamentary immunity that was applied to facts of the highest gravity, despite the fact that there is an absolute absence of political motivation behind the accusation, without respect for due process and without the decision adopted having been substantiated.