By Patricia Maresch, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Brazilian Magistrates Association (AMB) asked Justice Minister Cardozo to create a special task force to solve the murder of Judge Patrícia Acioli (47 years). She was assassinated last week outside her home in Niterói, the metropolitan region of Rio de Janeiro, shot 21 times in her car by gunmen wearing Ninja masks.
A letter sent to the minister by the president of the AMB read: “We will not rest until those responsible are arrested for this atrocity […]. We want a fast and exemplary answer.”
Civil Police Chief Martha Rocha said a team of twenty police officers is working on the case and she stressed the need for secrecy in their investigation, saying: “This is a moment of silence. The case is being investigated and will be completed as soon as possible.”
Over the past ten years, Criminal Judge Acioli was known for taking a tough stand against militia members, death squads and corrupt police officials. She was responsible for the arrest of some 60 officers linked to militias.
Hours before she was murdered, she had ordered the arrest of eight police officers suspected of killing a young woman in a favela in Sao Gonçalo, a municipality of Niterói. All eight officers have been arrested and placed in custody.
Reports show the bullets that killed Jugde Acioli came from .40 and .45 caliber pistols, weapons restricted to the Armed Forces and Civil and Military Police. Family members said that Judge Acioli had received several death threats and requested, but failed to receive, police protection. Several press outlets report that Acioli’s name appeared on a Black List marked for death, found on militia leader Wanderson Silva Tavares, known as Gordinho (Fatty), who was arrested in January this year.
Chief Justice Peluso asked for immediate action by the Federal Police. “On behalf of the Supreme Court, the National Council of Justice and the Judiciary, [I] repudiate the brutal murder of Judge [Acioli]. Cowardly crimes against magistrates are attacks on judicial Independence, rule of law and democracy in Brazil,” he said in a statement.
Judge Acioli is one of three judges executed in Brazil in the past eight years for their investigations into organized crime. A task force formed by three judges will take over Judge Acioli’s cases.
The victim’s sister, Simone Acioli, said she and her family just want the killers found and punished: “Our family is shocked. Whether or not the killers are members of the police force, all that matters to us is that whoever did it is punished, so that my sister’s death is not in vain.”
Human rights defender and politician Marcelo Freixo received various death threats from militia members in June 2008, after he was appointed president of a parliamentary inquiry into the growth of militias in Rio de Janeiro.
In a reaction to Judge Acioli’s murder, Freixo addresses Acioli’s fellow judges: “Judge Patricia made a difference and she paid the price for indifference. If the majority of criminal judges would have shown only twenty per cent of her courage, she would never have been a victim,” he said.